South Africa is a member of the Paris Convention and design applications can be filed up to six months after the earliest priority date. An application for a registered design can also be filed within six months of disclosing the design to the public.

Registered designs (design patents) can be filed either as aesthetic designs or functional designs. Aesthetic designs are granted exclusively for the aesthetic appearance of an article, whereas functional designs are granted for features that are, at least to a certain extent, dictated by their function. In the case of designs embodying aesthetic and functional features, separate aesthetic and functional designs can be registered for the same article.

What is a registered design?

A registered design is a limited monopoly granted by the state to the proprietor of the design in exchange for a full disclosure of the design to the public. This monopoly entitles the holder to prevent others from using the design in any practical manner for the duration of the registration, so that only the proprietor enjoys any profit or advantage that the design affords for the period. After expiry of the period members of the public are free to use the design.

Registered designs can either be aesthetic designs or functional designs. Aesthetic designs are granted exclusively for the aesthetic appearance of an article and are judged by the eye, for example: an article of jewellery; the shape of a drinking glass or chair; or the pattern applied to a fabric. Functional designs, on the other hand, cover features that are dictated, at least to some extent, by the function of the article; for example: an aluminium extrusion; the mechanism of a clutch pencil; or the shape of a mould.

Is my design registrable?

A design can be registered if it is new. In the case of registered designs, an application can still be filed within 6 months of disclosing the design to the public. In other words, an article can be sold for up to six months before a design application has to be filed.

How long does a design registration last?

An aesthetic design lasts 15 years, and a functional design 10 years, from the date of application, subject to the payment of annual renewal fees.

How easily can someone else get around my registered design?

A registered design prevents others from using the registered design, or a design not substantially different from the registered design. It is thus a question of how similar the allegedly infringing article is to the registered design and how similar both are to other products in the marketplace.

Please note that a registered design only protects the physical appearance of an article, not the manner of construction or the principle of operation which can only be protected by a patent.

What can I do with a registered design?

A registered design is property and may be sold (by way of assignment) or licensed for use by others. Alternatively, a registered design can be used defensively to prevent others from using the design, provided the design is used by the proprietor to an adequate extent.

How do I apply for a registered design?

A registered design application is made by filing a representation of the design, together with the necessary forms and government fees, at the Patent Office in Pretoria. The application also includes a description of the features of the design for which protection is sought.

If given a drawing or photograph of the design, the design specification and the necessary forms can be prepared and a registered design application filed on your behalf. All the administrative functions will be carried out by our offices.

How do I get registered designs in other countries?

A registered design application must be filed in each country or territory in which protection is sought. However, in respect of most countries in the world, corresponding foreign registered designs can be filed within 6 months of the first design application.

What are the costs involved?

The cost involved in preparing and filing a registered design application will vary from case to case and will depend on the number of representations required, the description required and whether adequate drawings are supplied.

Our charges are very competitive and we encourage you to contact us with details of your design to enable us to provide you with an estimate of the costs involved.

Key members

Izaan van der Merwe
A patent attorney specialising in intellectual property litigation and plant breeders’ rights.
Ralph van Niekerk
An experienced patent attorney with an aptitude for complex patent prosecution and commercial IP ...
Gunther Roland
A patent attorney and head of our African patent and designs practice.