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Registering your design

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


Tools.jpgA "design" refers to the shape and features that appeal to the eye. Some Designs are functional and others are aesthetic (visually appealing). There are various laws that protect the rights of the creator of a Design and it's important to know the implications.

There are two legally protected types of Designs:

An aesthetic Design

  1. Has to be new and original
  2. Beauty is in its shape, configuration or ornamentation
  3. Must be able to be produced by an industrial process

A Functional Design

  1. Has to be new and not commonplace
  2. Where the shape or configuration is needed for the function
  3. Must be able to be produced by an industrial process

The registration procedure is explained on the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission's website. Once registered, you will have exclusive rights to your Design; 10 years (for aesthetic Designs) or 15 years (for functional Designs). The registration has to be renewed annually, and anyone wanting to use your Design must get your permission or pay a pre-determined fee to you.

This is just one reason why it's important to get professional help to register your Design, as an attorney with expertise in Intellectual Property will be able to make sure that all documentation adequately protects your rights.

The legal definition of a Design

In layman's terms, The Design Act requires that an aesthetic Design should be new and original, and never before made available for use in the general public. A functional Design should be new and not commonplace in the art in question.

How to go about registering

Before you register your Design, it's a good idea to conduct a search to make sure that it is indeed the first of its kind, or that you have not simply created something that is even similar to someone else's idea.

This is not a registration requirement, but could save you from a potential legal battle in the future. You or your patent attorney can do the search at the Design Registry Office in Pretoria, the details of which can be found on the CIPRO website.

The documents you'll need for registration are available online, free of charge, from the Design Registry Office in Pretoria, Private Bag x 400, Pretoria, 0001. Once your Design is registered, you can take legal action if anyone tries to copy or sell it without your permission.

Once your Design has been legally registered, you have exclusive rights to the "product", meaning that no one else may manufacture, copy, sell or distribute it without your explicit permission or paying you a fee, if that's what you require. This includes instances where parts of your Design have been used.

Intellectual Property is a very complex area of the law. It's worth getting expert advice in this area and doing very detailed research to make sure you are not stepping on anyone's toes. We have included various useful links in this category to help you.

Source: CIPC website

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