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What is Intellectual Property?

Provided by Business Partners Ltd, South Africa's leading investor in SMEs


BrightIdea.jpgWhen you've invented a new product, provide a unique service or provide information that you have developed, be sure to protect your intellectual property, so that other unscrupulous parties do not make profits off your hard work.

Intellectual property is basically any creation of the human mind, such as an invention, a specific brand name, books, etc. Intellectual property rights, which include patents, trademarks and designs, are the legal framework that protects the creators of these works.

These laws promote creativity, idea generation and innovation across all industries and protect the individual with the idea from having his intellectually property copied and sold. This is particularly important for the entrepreneur, as you could find yourself out of business if someone simply starts producing copies of your product and sells them at a cheaper price, for example.

Intellectual property is divided into two categories:

  1. Industrial property: inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source
  2. Copyright covers literary works such as novels, poems and plays, films, computer software, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs. Not all works have to be protected by copyright, but it's important to know how it works. Copyright falls under the regulation of the Copyright Act 98 of 1978.

Each Intellectual Property right - such as a trademark, patent or copyright - has different legislative acts that govern them and the procedure to register these also differs for each one.

When you want to register your idea or product, employ an Intellectual Property lawyer to do the paperwork for you, as this will ensure all your rights are adequately protected. Another benefit to registering, is that if someone want's to use or reproduce your work, you can charge them a fee to do so. But this makes it even more important that your registration has been done properly. 

There are various industry-specific bodies that will register your product/patent/copyright, but to ensure you are fully covered by the law and not infringing on someone else's Intellectual Property, the best place to register is with the Company and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC).

Call them on 0861 843 384 or log on to the CIPC website to find out exactly how to go about registering your product or service, the costs involved and various other issues you may need to consider.

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