Intellectual Property

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY REFERS TO CREATIONS OF THE MIND, INCLUDING INVENTIONS, IDEAS, POEMS, DESIGNS, SYMBOLS, NAMES AND IMAGES USED IN COMMERCE. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW creates property rights in creations of the mind. It regulates and places limits on such rights. If your creation is protected by intellectual property law, this may affect whether other people can use your creation, or how they may use it. Intellectual property can broadly be divided into these categories:

patents; trade marks; copyright; and designs.

Increasingly, the true value of companies world-wide lies in their intellectual property and not in their physical assets. Intellectual property can work for you or your company in may ways: A pro-activeapproacli towards intellectual property protection and a co-ordinated intellectual property protection strategy is essential.

  1. PATENTS Patents are concerned with inventions. A patent will be granted for any new invention which involves an inventive step and which can be used in trade, industry or agriculture. To be "new", the invention must not have been publicly disclosed in any way anywhere in the world. To obtain protection for an invention, a patent application must be filed with the Patent Office in Pretoria. A patent gives the patent holder a monopoly over the use of the invention for up to 20 years, subject to the payment of renewal fees. lf a patent is registered in South Africa, protection will only be afforded in South Africa. If an inventor needs protection in other countries, it is necessary also to file patent applications in those countries.
  2. TRADE MARKS Trade marks are the marks (words, letters, symbols, logos and the like) which distinguish the goods or services of the trade mark owner from the goods or services of other manufacturers or suppliers. The kinds of trade marks that can be registered are almost limitless: one word, a combination of words, letters, numerals, drawings, symbols, three dimensional signs (eg packaging), music or vocal sounds, fragrances, or colours used as distinguishing features. To register a trade mark, an application must be filed with the Trade Marks Office in a particular country. The trade mark cannoot be the same as, or similar to, rights already granted to another (trademark owner). It is therefore advisable first to conduct a search through the Trade Marks Office to detertnine whether the trade mark is available for use and registration.
  3. COPYRIGHT Copyright provides protection for a wide variety of works including, literary works, musical works, artistic works, cinematograph films, sound recordings, broadcasts, program carrying signals, published editions and computer programs. Copyright does not protect ideas, but only the physical expression of the ideas. The rights granted by copyright are not absolute (unlike patents and designs) and in order to.prevent someone else from producing a similar work, you must show that copying has in fact taken place. Copyright comes about automatically, but there are certain basic requirements which must first be met. ..
  4. DESIGN Anybody who conceives of a new shape or appearance for an article may be able to protect that design by means of a registered design. The registration is under the Designs Act and it protects the appearance or form of the article. In order to be registrable, a design must be new or novel. The new Designs Act gives protection for both aesthetic and functional designs.

It is important to understand the category of intellectual property with which you are dealing, what kind of protection intellectual property gives you and how to go about ensuring maximum protection under the law.

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