Patent protection of living organisms – and the substances derived therefrom – has long been an area of confusion and controversy in South Africa. However, there has been a recent move towards clearer boundaries regarding what constitutes patentable subject matter in relation to living things.
What should a company do when its distributor terminates their supply and distribution contract stating that it is more economical for it to acquire the products from another company? If the first company has a registered patent for the products that the other company is manufacturing, it can institute infringement proceedings. However, the question then becomes against whom should it institute these proceedings: the distributor or the company infringing its patent?
Professional and amateur bakers are often inspired by the extravagant and intricately designed cakes shown on TV shows. However, this begs the question of whether bakers can reproduce these cakes (or at least try to) without getting into trouble. Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is probably no, as these creations may be subject to copyright protection. Therefore, as with all copyright infringement, it is important to be cautious when taking inspiration from other people's creations.
Many corporates and start-ups that enlist third-party graphic designers to create logos or corporate identities during a rebrand are unaware of the legal implications of contracting third parties and thus often find themselves in costly and time-consuming litigation. This is because, under South African law, a third-party graphic designer commissioned to design a corporate's logo will own the copyright in said work. To avoid this situation, a logo must be assigned from a third-party graphic designer to the corporation or start-up immediately.
Two IT entrepreneurs recently applied for an interdict to prevent an asset management company from using (ie, infringing) their invention. The case has raised many questions regarding the validity of certain patents, including what protections are afforded to entrepreneurs. Young entrepreneurs in particular are encouraged to follow this case earnestly to ensure that they are well acquainted with South African patent law and thus able to protect their inventions.