Intellectual property and the Berne Convention

Businesses and individuals need to become familiar with their rights relating to intellectual property protection in South Africa in order to guard their ideas and prevent others from using them for their own profit. The copyright protection of intellectual property in South Africa is governed by South African Copyright Act of 1978.

South Africa is also covered by the Berne Copyright Convention which essentially means that the copyright of your intellectual property is protected internationally in all countries that are members of the Berne Union. Intellectual property protection with regards to copyright is therefore automatic for an individual living in South Africa and no formal registration or application for the copyright is required. Intellectual property protection with regards to patents, trademarks and designs need to be registered and applied for in South Africa.

The Berne Copyright Convention was created in 1886 in order to construct a system that offered fair and equal treatment of intellectual property protection amongst a selection of countries. Each country in the Berne Union is able to amend its internal intellectual property protection acts and laws; however the Berne Copyright Convention insists that countries provide an adequate standard of intellectual property protection in their own copyright laws within their country.

The Berne Copyright Convention states that the intellectual property of an individual is protected or copyrighted for at least fifty years after the person dies which excludes photography and cinematography. The intellectual property protection is then governed by the rules and regulations as set out in each individual country in the Berne Union.

South Africans should therefore make a point of clearly displaying the copyright symbol on their intellectual property to protect their works. One should also consult a lawyer that specialises in intellectual property protection if you are unsure or if you suspect infringement of your intellectual property.

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