Gauteng Business News

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BUSINESS: Protecting Your Ideas


Recent Gauteng Business News

Do you have any great ideas or inventions but don’t know what to do with them? Rest assured, you are not alone. There are many South African entrepreneurs around the country who are brimming with good ideas but just do not know how to register or protect them.

Keith Sendwe, Chief Executive Officer, Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (CIPRO), says that it is a great shame that so many good ideas do not see the light of day in South Africa.

“Our country really needs many more successful entrepreneurs as they contribute substantially to economic growth while boosting employment levels. Many ideas do not reach fruition as individuals are not aware of how to register their businesses or protect their ideas.”

There are a number of steps that can be taken in order to set up your business and to prevent your ideas from being used by someone else. The registration of your business is vital and allows you to participate in South Africa’s formal economy, points out Sendwe. In return you have to adhere to the trade and industry laws that regulate the South African economy.

You may decide to form a company, close corporation (CC), trading trust, sole trader, partnership or even form a co-operative. The first three need to be registered and CIPRO can help you in this regard says Sendwe.

Registering your intellectual property is another critical area of business, and one that CIPRO also focuses on. According to Sendwe, ideas can be protected if they can properly be applied for under one of four domains of intellectual property (IP). The registration and administration of IP falling within the four domains: patents, designs, trade marks and copyright in cinematographic works, all fall within the mandate of CIPRO.

“Protecting your ideas through the registration of your IP not only allows them to be safeguarded, but also helps you put them into practice,” says Sendwe. “If you have a great business idea, do not tell everyone about it until you have registered it and turned it into a successful enterprise. Otherwise, someone else may take your idea and use it before you can. If you have business partners or other individuals that you would like to discuss the idea with, then make sure they sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement.”

Asked to explain the four domains of intellectual property, Sendwe said that a design is a unique shape, form, appearance, pattern or configuration of a product or article. This can be registered as either an aesthetic or a functional design.

The second domain of IP is a trade mark. This is a brand name, a slogan or logo that identifies the services or products of one person while distinguishing it from that of another. Examples hereof would be Nike, Coca Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Then there is copyright, which is an exclusive right granted by law to the author of a literary, artistic or musical work. This means if you write a song and you have copyright on it, it cannot be reproduced without your permission and then you may be entitled to royalties for it.

Copyright in anything else but cinematographic works subsists automatically as South Africa is a member of the Berne Convention. This is as long as the work was created individually and not copied from someone else. This would include books, music, computer software programmes etc.

And finally, patents are an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem.

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