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Have you ever created something someone else was willing to steal? South African legislation has been put in place to protect people’s rights to own their creative products; such protection extends to everything from an idea, a name or an invention, amongst others. The legal definition of Intellectual Property is broad and inclusive of many areas, such as music, inventions, law, etc. Intellectual property is defined as “An intangible right protecting the products of human intelligence and creation, such as copyrightable works, trademarks and trade secrets.”

There are four types of Intellectual Property in South African law.

  1. Patents protect inventions.
  2. Trademarks protect the unique name or symbol identifying a business or product.
  3. Copyright protects the original works of authors, composers, artists, musicians, film makers and software developers.
  4. Designs can be registered to protect creative aspects of articles that are beautiful, such as jewellery. A design has to be new and original. Protection is limited to the specific appearance of the article.

There are also four Acts of Parliament that govern the above mentioned types of Intellectual Property.

  1. Trade Marks Act 194 of 1993:
    The Trade Marks Act can only protect trademarks if they are first registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). Trade marks can be a brand name, a slogan, a logo or even a shape. A registered trade mark can be protected for ever provided it is renewed every ten years.
  2. Patent Act 57 of 1978:
    The patent law prevents others from making, using, exercising, or disposing of the invention in question. South African Patent Law protects the patent holder for twenty years from the first registration of the patent, providing that the patent is renewed annually. South Africa is a signatory of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). This means that South Africans are able to file both national and international patent applications.
  3. Registered Designs Act 1949:
    A design essentially refers to the shape and other features of an article that appeals to the eye. Under the South African Designs Act, designs that may be registered with CIPC fall into two categories, some by their function and others by their aesthetic appeal. Provided that they fall within certain specifications designs may be registered, and when they are the aesthetic designs are protected for fifteen years and functional designs for ten years.
  4. Copyright Act 98 of 1978:
    According to this Act, copyright lasts the life of the author plus 50 years and as South Africa is a signatory to the Berne Convention (an international agreement on copyright) any work protected under South African copyright laws, is protected in other countries as well.

Whatever the intellectual property one wishes to register, it is essential to consult the above mentioned legislation as well as an attorney who specialises in that area of law.

The law of intellectual property can be tricky to navigate for a novice, so getting the correct information and assistance is the first step in correctly keeping your creations your own