Intellectual property protection in South Africa

intellectual property
28 Nov 2022

Intellectual property (“IP”) rights are the rights that are given or conferred on the creators or owners of intellectual property works. IP is a category of property that refers to creations of the mind such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs and symbols, and brand names and images used in commerce. The protection can either be under copyrights, patents, trademarks and/or trade secrets.

It is important to note that these rights protect intellectual property that is tangible, i.e., an idea that is written down or executed will be protected under these laws and ideas or thoughts cannot be protected.

Intellectual property is a means by which you own your business identity, technology, works of authorship, logo, slogans and any other practical expression of the ideas that drive your business forward. In addition to protecting these assets, they help you build a brand identity, to increase the commercial value of your company, increase market access, increase the value of your brand, and protect your freedom to operate and reduce infringement risks.

There are different types of IP protection, and the requirements for such protection depend on the product or invention. Therefore, one needs to be extra careful in identifying which category of IP is needed to protect their products or work.

Copyright applies to the protection of creative works. You own the copyright the moment you create something, you do not have to register it. The term of protection for copyright is 50 years from the end of the year in which the work was first made or in which the author dies or is presumed to have died. Only once the copyright expires does the work fall into the public domain.

Trademark protects symbols, designs, company names, logos and slogans as part of a business marketing strategy and identity. In general, trademark protection lasts as long as the protected material is used in commerce and safeguarded against infringement. However, trademarks may be registered for periods of 10 years. After the first period, that registration may be renewed for another 10 years, with unlimited renewals available afterward.

Patent protects invented unique products, the machine or equipment, or chemical composition. You can protect this IP by filing for a patent. Patent protection means that someone else cannot commercially make, use, distribute or sell your invention without your permission for a limited period of 20 years.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)

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