It’s your design. Proud of it? Protect it.
To prevent the copying of your design, a registered design can be an effective solution across Africa. This form of monopoly right is granted on the appearance of an article – protecting the way it looks rather than the underlying inventive concept. (The latter is protected by a patent.)
South Africa, in particular, is uniquely positioned as it also allows for the protection of functional features by way of a functional design registration, while utility models offer similar protection in many other African countries.
Because a registered design offers a very specific scope of protection, your intellectual property (IP) protection strategy will often benefit from obtaining both patent and design protection for your product.
A registered design is generally easier to obtain, quicker to register and easier to enforce than a patent. In instances where your competitors are likely to ride on the back of your efforts by simply copying your design, it can be beneficial to use a registered design to obtain enforceable rights quickly, while your patent application may take several years to proceed to grant.
The same strategy may be used to get design protection quickly for some trade marks, while a trade mark registration is pending.
Our Registered Designs team has extensive experience in assisting local and international clients who are seeking to register their designs throughout Africa.
Our team is equally skilled in assisting African-based design owners who are seeking to obtain design protection outside of Africa, with the support of a global network of agents.
We work with across several industries including motor vehicle manufacturers, local and international technology companies, some of the world’s largest FMCG companies, luxury goods that are part of well-known brands, sports/athletic goods and apparel companies, start-ups, SMMEs, universities, and individual design owners.
Our team has unrivalled experience in preparing, filing and prosecuting design applications, and drafting licences and other agreements across Africa. They also lecture extensively, proudly educating the next generation of design thinkers.
Our Litigation and Anti-Counterfeiting teams ably support our Registered Designs team, in the event that enforcement issues arise.
A registered design is a form of monopoly right that is granted on the outward appearance of an article. It protects the way an article looks as opposed to the underlying inventive concept. Because they provide enforceable rights quickly, registered designs are very effective in preventing the blatant copying of a design.
The maximum term of a registered design will differ from country to country. In South Africa, an aesthetic design registration has a duration of 15 years, while a functional design registration has a duration of 10 years, subject to payment of renewal fees.
In each case, renewal fees are payable from the third year calculated from the date of filing of the application, the priority date, or the release date, whichever is earliest, and annually thereafter.
Some design legislation differentiates between aesthetic and functional designs.
An aesthetic design protects the features of a design that appeal to and are judged solely by the eye; typically, those that influence consumer selection based on visual appeal. A functional design protects the features that are necessitated by the function the article performs.
A single design may have both aesthetic and functional features, which need to be protected by separate design registrations.
The specific requirements will depend on the country of registration but generally, a design must be novel, compared with all known designs in the world.
To be registrable in South Africa, an aesthetic design must also be original, which means that it must be a result of your own work and not copied from somewhere else; and a functional design must not be “commonplace”, which means that everyday and obvious variations of known designs are not registrable.
Also, there must be an intention to multiply the articles embodying the design by an industrial process. Once-off articles are excluded from design protection and enjoy protection under copyright instead.
If you are interested in applying for a registered design, please contact us for more information.
Meet the team
Partner, Chairperson of Executive Committee
Margaret Le Galle
Prof. John McKnight
Herman van Schalkwyk
Patent Formalities and Prosecutions