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Intellectual Property Law and Examples of Process

- Featured article by LAWYERS-ONLINE.CO.ZA - June 2019

Have you ever had a brilliant idea late at night and told someone about it and they told you to patent it with a chuckle? Well, they weren’t wrong. Intellectual Property Law is serious business and it refers to the law regarding your right to your own designs, trademarks and patents as well as the copyright on your content and creations.

When it comes to the copyright of, for example, this article, you do not need to file paperwork to protect it, but for the rest, always protect your intellectual property. So let’s say that friend who offered the advice on patenting your idea, steals it and becomes successful selling what you came up with unless you have a trail of legal paperwork proving that you had the idea first, there is, unfortunately, nothing you can do.

So what exactly constitutes intellectual property? Well as the name implies it is anything you have visualised or materialised using your intellectual prowess. An artist has intellectual property over their paintings, while a writer owns the copyright to their works and of course, a designer owns their designs. But in South Africa, although there is plenty of legislation to protect intellectual property, there are far more instances of intellectual property theft than one would think. Large corporations tend to rifle through the designs and ideas of smaller creators for “inspiration” – and this is why it is so important to take the time to register your intellectual property and protect your rights.

Important pieces of legislation to consider when dealing with intellectual property law include:

South African Designs Act 195 of 1993

This act allows a designer to be inferred with rights to designs provided they are registered as per the stipulations of the act and specifically the design that is referred are those designs applied to an article.

South African Patents Act No. 57 of 1978

Under this act, a patent may be registered or granted if the inventor of the patent can prove that they have come upon something new that features an inventive step that is useful for the agricultural or trade industry.

Trade Marks Act 194 of 1993

If you want to distinguish your idea from similar goods or services, trademarking is the way to go. Therefore if you have a new idea for a coffee mug, it would be best to trademark it to prevent another person from using the same idea.

Copyright Act No 98 of 1978

And lastly, the most famous terms when talking about intellectual property law – copyright. Under the act, copyright can be extended to a variety of intellectual products including literature, art pieces, films, music, and even computer programmes.

If you are in need of more advice regarding intellectual property law and what it entails, or you want to find out which route is best for your intellectual property, talk to us about getting in touch with a civil law professional that specialised in these matters.

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