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Welcome back to another chapter of DID YOU KNOW? where we breakdown everything business and finance simply for SMEs to understand. In this three-part miniseries we focus on the legal side of your small business so that you are protected from service providers, corporates, government (tenders), and supply chain suppliers.  No matter what business you are running every entrepreneur needs to have basic legal knowledge.

Let’s recap on Part 1 and Part 2 where we discussed the three main types of contracts available to small business owners and explained what they do as well as we looked at commercial law and what exactly it is used for with regards to small businesses.

Now in Part 3, we are going to give Intellectual Property Law a look over so sit back, relax, and get ready to be schooled in the art of business law that will make you a formidable entrepreneur when it comes to knowing your rights as a small business owner in South Africa.  Whether you are small or medium, working in any profession, you should be protected from others who would find ways to be dishonest.

We have broken it down into three different categories:

  • Contractual Law
  • Commercial Law
  • Intellectual Property Law


Intellectual property law dates as far back as medieval Europe. In those times, “guilds,” or associations of artisans in a particular industry, were granted authority by the governments to control the regulation and conduct of the various industries. These guilds exercised control over what items could be imported, marketed, and produced and how new inventions, devices, and procedures could be introduced to the stream of commerce. Authority for these guilds was given by the governments, and because they concentrated the power to regulate an industry in a select few, and were not earned by innovation, skill, or creativity, these guilds did far more to stifle creativity and invention than to encourage it.

Intellectual property law at that time was driven not by an interest in creation and innovation, but rather by political and religious motivations. For example, the 1556 establishment of the Stationers’ Company’s monopoly in England was largely intended to help limit the Protestant Reformation movement’s power.

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What is intellectual property law?

The main purpose of intellectual property law is to encourage the creation of a wide variety of intellectual goods for consumers. Achieving this the law gives people and businesses property rights to the information and intellectual goods they create, usually for a limited period.

When it is used?

To secure and enforce legal rights to inventions, designs, and artistic works. Just as the law protects ownership of personal property and real estate, so too does it protect the exclusive control of intangible assets.

Why should you use it?

Intellectual Property law seeks to protect and enforce the rights of the creators and owners of inventions, writing, music, designs, and other works, known as intellectual property. There are several areas of intellectual property including copyright, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets.

List of Four Different Types of Intellectual Property

Trade Secrets

  1. What is a trade secret?

Trade secrets refer to specific, private information that is important to a business because it gives the business a competitive edge in the marketplace. If a trade secret is acquired by another company it could harm the original holder. Examples of trade secrets include recipes for certain foods and beverages (like chocolate chips biscuit or Coco-Cola) new inventions, software, process, and even different marketing strategies.

  1. Why should I get a trade secret protection?

When a business holds a trade secret protection, others cannot copy or steal the idea. To establish information as a trade secret and to incur the legal protection associated with trade secrets, businesses must actively behave in a manner that demonstrates their desire to protect the information.

Side Note: When it comes to trade secrets it is important to remember that you do not need to tell the whole everything about your product or service – let there be a little bit of mystery that keeps them coming back for more.  If you are in the process of getting a trademark, copyright, and patent for your invention and you want to enter the market without any further delays get a trade secret to protect your idea.


  1. What is a trademark?

A trademark is a type of intellectual property consisting of a recognisable sign, design, or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from those of others, although trademarks used to identify services are usually called service marks.

  1. Why should I get a trademark?

If you are manufacturing goods or offering a service, it helps you to have a trademark. When people see or hear about a trademark, they remember the goods or services associated with it. Your trademark distinguishes you from other people in the same line of work and gives you an identity in the market place. Goods are things that can be manufactured, such as radios, clothing, medicine, cosmetics, jewellery, and cars.  Goods can also be perishables, such as plants, meat, milk, fruits, and vegetables. A service is the work done by a person or a group of people for other people. Some examples are a restaurant, a construction company, and a food delivery service.

For additional information click here:

For additional information click here:

Side Note: if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to use the links provided above but if you still need more clarity on how it all works you can e-mail us and we will connect you to an IP attorney with an excellent reputation to assist you to start the complex process to protect your invention.


  1. What is a patent?

A patent is a form of intellectual property that gives its owner the legal right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention for a limited period of years in exchange for publishing and enabling public disclosure of the invention.

  1. When should I get a patent?

If you are an inventor that has improved on a previous patent then there is a provision made for registration of a patent of addition. If it is an improvement on somebody else’s invention, you can obtain a dependent patent, as far as that improvement is patentable.

Side Note: if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to use the links provided above but if you still need more clarity on how it all works you can e-mail us and we will connect you to a patent attorney with an excellent reputation to assist you to start the complex process to protect your invention.


  1. What is copyright?

Copyright is an exclusive right granted by law to the authors of original works of authorship. If you create an original work that people can see or hear, you have copyright. Having copyright means that you own that work and you can control its commercial use. Your copyright can protect your work from being copied or reproduced without your permission.

  1. When do I need copyright?

You need copyright if you want to control the use of your work for monetary gain (economic right). Copyright also gives you a moral right as the author of literary or musical works (this is the right to claim honour or reputation as the author).

  1. What are the different types of copyright-protected in South Africa?

The following is protected under the South African copyright Literary works

  • Musical works
  • Artistic works
  • Cinematograph films
  • Sound recordings
  • Broadcasts
  • Program-carrying signals
  • Published editions
  • Computer programs

For additional information click here:

We have come to the end of our three-part miniseries looking at when and why a small business owner needs to appoint a lawyer to handle all their legal battles as well as highlighting what the general information entrepreneurs need to know about the three main laws mentioned in our miniseries, so let’s do it right from the very beginning by putting the necessary steps in place to protect you, your business, and your family from any unforeseen danger, stay tuned and stay informed until next time.

Yvette Pugin

Yvette Pugin


A force to be reckoned with: Qualified Senior Bookkeeper with 40 years experience in Administration, both in Corporate and the SME space. Having started working in the 1980’s when computers were still a dream; her experience was gained with manual systems. After working with SME Suppliers in the corporate environment, it became apparent that there is a need for not only education, but system management for SME’s.