Dr Johann Rupert endows Chair of Intellectual Property Law at SU

The study of intellectual property will soon be strengthened with the establishment of the Anton Mostert Chair of Intellectual Property Law in the Faculty of Law at Stellenbosch University (SU). Dr Johann Rupert, Chancellor of SU and the Executive Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Richemont, has donated the Chair.

Prof Owen Dean, probably the leading expert in the field of Intellectual Property in South Africa and who previously worked for the well-known legal firm Spoor & Fisher, has been appointed as the first holder of the Chair. He has been appointed for three years as of 1 July 2011.

The Chair has been named after the late Judge Anton Mostert, one of the youngest people to be appointed as a judge (in 1977) in the then Supreme Court. He was appointed to lead a commission of inquiry into foreign exchange dealings and control in 1978. He would eventually expose large-scale corruption in government circles, later known as the Information Scandal, in the then Department of Information. After his disclosures, the Commission of Inquiry was disbanded and he was thus removed from his position as Commissioner. He returned to the Bar in 1980 and practised as an advocate until his death.

“Anton Mostert lived out the courage of his convictions and his high moral values, despite the personal stress, public denunciation and negative consequences for his career as a result of his disclosures,” says Dr Johann Rupert. “He announced the information at a press conference in the interests of justice, despite the instruction from the then State President to suppress his findings, and this led to the resignation of a number of senior members of government.”

The Chair will initially be funded for three years at R1,5 million per year, after which the funding levels will be reconsidered in a three-year cycle.

Prof Gerhard Lubbe, Dean of the Faculty of Law, confirms that Anton Mostert’s characteristics provide an example for the Chair that is worth following and that reflect the values of the Faculty. His unyielding honesty and action serve as a lesson for all who attach value to freedom under the law.

“Although Intellectual Property Law is taught in South African law faculties, there is a lack of high-level, research-driven emphasis in the field. With a view to the demands of a globalised world economy, the Chair will make a unique contribution – particularly in relation to the implementation and functioning of intellectual property law in the international context and the challenge posed by a borderless world of internet-based digital communication to traditional views on intellectual property,” says Prof Lubbe. “This approach is relevant to current challenges, and links to the contributions of the Rupert family to the development of this dynamic field of law over a long period of time.”

High-level theoretical and practically relevant expertise, is envisaged for the Chair, with the implementation and distribution thereof by means of publications, conferences and workshops, particularly in synergy with networks that are available in the Richemont organisation.

The Chair furthermore entails capacity building through undergraduate and postgraduate legal training; and the development of expertise in intellectual property law among non-lawyers, such as businesspeople, computer programmers and artists, particularly by means of computer-based distance teaching technology and an involvement in legal development and reform, both nationally and internationally.

“In this manner, the Chair will make a fundamental contribution to the discourse on Intellectual Property Law and thereby to the excellence of the Faculty in the spheres of research, teaching and community interaction,” says Prof Lubbe.

HOPE Project

After the introduction of the Stellenbosch University HOPE Project to a select group of businesspeople in 2010, Dr Johann Rupert indicated that he wished to fund a Chair in Intellectual Property Law at Stellenbosch University. SU places its proven research and academic expertise at the service of society through the HOPE Project. Intellectual property law is a dynamic field of study that creates new challenges on a continuous basis as a result, among others, of electronic communication platforms. By way of the Chair, new knowledge will be created and made available to the benefit of society.

“The University’s HOPE Project is an ambitious undertaking that enjoys the strategic and financial support of the University Council. Partnerships with the private sector, such as the Chair of Intellectual Property Law, enable the University to achieve the goals of the HOPE Project and to ensure that we remain a leading institution,” says Prof Russel Botman. “The University’s management team and the Faculty of Law are therefore very appreciative of Dr Rupert’s support.”