It usually takes about eight months from the date of filing the application until notification of registration is received from the South African Designs Office. If foreign registered designs are to be applied for, we should be notified thereof at the outset, but foreign design applications may be filed in a number of countries within six months after the filing of a South African registered design. Such a design application may then claim the priority date of the South African design.
In South Africa, the designs register is split into two sections. Firstly, an aesthetic design protects the appearance of an article, irrespective of the aesthetic value thereof (such as cell phones covers or automobile designs). Secondly, a functional design protects the appearance of an article in as far as its appearance is necessitated by the function that the article is to perform (such as a paving stone or aluminium profiling).
Designs are grouped into different classes of technology and a design application may be filed in one or more classes, to provide protection against infringing products falling in the same class.
A South African registered design protects the appearance of an article, unlike a patent which protects the underlying invention on which an article is based. Even though the underlying principle of operation may be the same as a known article, a new appearance may be protectable by way of a South African registered design.