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Intellectual Property

South Africa has a developed system of intellectual property (IP) law covering patents, industrial designs, copyright and trademarks. South African IP law has been amended and consolidated in accordance with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) requirements and the International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Products of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations.

Patents are granted for inventions that have not been previously known and that differ adequately from what was previously done along the same lines. An individual can apply for a temporary patent for the duration of one year, at a cost of R60. Before the expiry of a temporary patent, a patent attorney or agent must file a complete patent application, which costs R266. It takes twelve to eighteen months to obtain a patent in South Africa. Patents last for twenty years from the date of application, subject to the payment of prescribed renewal fees.

How do you register for patent protection?

First conduct a novelty search to ensure you are not infringing on existing patent rights. You can conduct a search at the office of the Registrar of Patents in Pretoria. The Registrar does not conduct novelty searches; it is the responsibility of the client to personally conduct the search.

All documents except drawings must be:
• In typescript or machine-printed;
• In a dark durable colour;
• Free from erasures, alterations, over-writings and interlineations;
• Legible;
• Free of cracks, creases and folds; and
• Produced on A4 sheets of paper.

The Registrar examines the complete patent application and, if found in order according to the requirements of the SA Patent Act, it is published in the Patent and Trademark Journal. According to the International Patent Convention, an applicant can file an application in another country and claim a priority date, which will then be dated the same as the original South African application.

Benefits of the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) system include the following:
• No representation required (attorney/agent is optional);
• There is no multiple search;
• One month to pay filing fees;
• Protection will be granted in 109 member-states;
• One single application is filed in triplicate; and
• Nationals and residents of South Africa are entitled to a reduction of 75% of the international fee.


Designs incorporating the visual or aesthetic appearance of an article are protected and registered in terms of the Designs Act, No. 195 of 1993, provided that it is new in comparison to that previously known on articles of a similar nature. Designs are divided into aesthetic and functional designs. Any individual may file for a design. An attorney is not required. The duration of registration is fifteen years for aesthetic designs and ten years for functional designs. Both are renewable at a prescribed renewal fee.


Artistic works and other works containing intellectual content, such as literary works, music, cinematographic films, sound recordings, drawings (including engineering drawings), plans, computer programmes, pictures of all forms and numerous other two-dimensional and three-dimensional articles are protected by copyright under the Copyright Act, No. 98 of 1978. Copyright is different from other forms of intellectual property in that it exists automatically and no steps need to be taken in South Africa to register it. If you are not South African, you can obtain copyright protection provided the country you are a national of is part of the Berne Convention. Copyright endures for 50 years.


Trademarks may be registered under the Trademarks Act, No. 194 of 1993. After an initial term of ten years, a trademark may be renewed for a further 10-year period. Being registered as a trademark protects the name or logo in association with which an article is marketed or a service is rendered, and even the shape of a special container.

An attorney is not required to file for a trademark. A thorough preliminary trademark search, conducted by an experienced individual, can ensure against possible conflicts, thereby preventing the prolonging of an already lengthy process.

The Office of the Registrar will, on request, do an in-depth search for possible conflicts for a fee. The application fee for registering a trademark is R266. On average, approval requires at least two years, but a business may trade during that period. Applications may be lodged by hand or post with the registrar and fees are payable in revenue stamps, excluding Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) patent applications.

For more information, please contact:

Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office of South Africa (CIPRO)
Tel.: 0861 843 384; +27 (12) 394 9500
Fax: 0861 843 888; +27 (12) 394 9501
E-mail: info@cipro.gov.za
Website: www.cipro.co.za

Ms. TSD Nxumalo Consul-General
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