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Intellectual Property Law South Africa

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Published Date: December 1, 2020

IP law gives individuals and businesses property rights to their original works, so that they can profit from their ideas and inventions exclusively and receive the recognition that they deserve.

Types of Intellectual Property Explained


A patent provides the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the patented invention for the term of the patent. A patent is a limited property right the government gives inventors in exchange for their agreement to share details of their inventions with the public.

A patent is a right that may be granted to anyone who invents any new, useful, and non-obvious process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter. Similar rights can also apply to industrial designs and plant varieties.

A patent can be registered by an IP attorney; detailed advice on how to register a patent can also be found on the CIPC website.

Registered Designs

There are two types of designs that can be registered in South Africa; aesthetic and functional designs.

Functional designs are designs that have features which are necessitated by the function of the article to which the design is applied.

Aesthetic designs are more common. The filing and prosecution of registered design applications, as well as the enforcement of design rights can all be handled by expert attorneys who specialise in IP law.

You can register the design of something you have created to prevent others from imitating the shape, form, appearance, pattern, ornamentation, or configuration of the design.

Trade Marks

A trade mark, generally speaking, is any mark used, or proposed to be used, to identify goods or services, and to distinguish those goods and services from identical or similar products or service offerings in the trade.

A ‘mark’ can be any sign represented graphically, including a device, name, signature, word, letter, numeral, shape, configuration, pattern, ornamentation, colour or container for goods, or any combination thereof. Once a trade mark is successfully registered, the use of identical or similar marks in relation to identical or similar goods or services would be considered an infringement. IP lawyers can advise you on the process of adopting, registering, maintaining and enforcing rights ina trade mark.


Copyright protection ensures that the copyright owner has exclusive rights to stop unauthorised exploitation of their copyrighted work by third parties.

Copyrights protects a work, but not a general expression of ideas. Works include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works
  • Artistic works
  • Cinematograph films, and more.

IP Legislation in Different Countries

IP registered in South Africa will usually only confer enforceable rights in South Africa, meaning that the intellectual property will need to be registered in other countries by the owner in order to be protected there.

Adams & Adams is an internationally recognised, leading African law firm that specialises in providing intellectual property and commercial services. Our Intellectual Property law services assist our clients with protecting, enforcing and commercialising their intellectual property. Contact us for more information on our IP services, as well as legal advice thereof.

How can we help you?

We have offices in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, please contact your nearest office for any legal enquiry or assistance.

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