What is Intellectual Property?

IP rights are a bundle of exclusive rights over creations of the mind both artistic & commercial.
Any person with an innovative idea in one’s mind is in possession of a potentially valuable piece of intellectual property. Such an idea could take various forms. To encourage people with new ideas to disclose these ideas to the public and to allow the public to benefit from these ideas the law provides for the acquisition & protection of IP rights.

The law recognises & protects the following types of rights:

  • Copyright
  • Design rights
  • Trademark
  • Patents
  • Trade secrets

The South African law recognizes and protects the following types of rights:

  1. Copyright Law – protects creative works such as books, movies, music, paintings, photographs and software. It gives the holder exclusive right to control reproduction or adaptation of such works for a period of 50 years.
  2. Design Rights – protects the form of appearance, style or design of an object from infringement. A design has a term of 15 years for aesthetic designs and 10 years for functional design.
  3. Patent – may be granted for a new, useful and non-obvious invention which gives the patent holder a right to prevent others from practicing the invention without permission for a period of 20 years.
  4. Trademark – is a distinctive sign which is used to prevent confusion amongst products in the market place. A registered trademark is renewable ever 10 year in perpetuity.
  5. Trade Secrets – is an item of non-public information concerning the commercial practices or propriety knowledge of a business. The term of a trade secret is for as long as the information remains a secret. Examples of trade secrets include product formulas (example is Coco-Cola).