When Trade Secrets exist

Intellectual Property
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When Trade Secrets exist the holder of the trade secret is nevertheless obliged to protect against such espionage to some degree in order to safeguard the secret. As noted above, under most trade secret rules, a trade secret is not deemed to exist unless its supposed holder takes reasonable steps to maintain its secrecy. Trade secret protection can, in principle, extend indefinitely and in this may offer an advantage over patent protection, which lasts only for a specifically limited period of time. Trade secrets are an important, but an invisible component of a company’s intellectual property. Being invisible, that contribution is hard to measure. When Trade Secrets exist: Coca-Cola, the most famous trade secret example, has no patent for its formula and has been very effective in protecting it for many more years than the twenty years of protection that a patent would have provided. In fact, Coca-Cola refused to reveal its trade secret under at least two judges’ orders.

Examples of trade secrets

Protection for confidential information which may be sold or licensed.  The unauthorised acquisition, use or disclosure of such secret information in a manner contrary to honest commercial practices by others is regarded as an unfair practice and a violation of the trade secret protection. Trade secrets include manufacturing processes, software code, inventions, designs, formulas, ingredients, devices or methods. When Trade Secrets exist: (1) The Krispy Kreme donut recipe, (2) The New York Times bestseller data system, (3) Google search engine algorithm.

All types of Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is protected in law which enables people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they create. The intellectual property system aims to promote an environment in which creativity and innovation can thrive through patents, designs, trademarks, copyright…

The rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, online content, music, paintings, sculpture and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings. In South Africa, Copyright does not have to be registered. Copyright vests in the author of a work once the work is created in a material form.

Grants exclusive rights for an invention, providing the patent owner with the right to decide on how the invention can be used by others. In exchange for this right, the patent owner discloses technical information about the invention to the public. A South African patent may be granted for an invention that is new, inventive and useful. If your invention meets these three requirements, subject to certain exclusions, a patent may be granted.

Protects the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of a product. A design may consist of three-dimensional features such as the shapes, or of two-dimensional features such as patterns, lines or colors. In South Africa, the designs register is split into aesthetic and functional. An aesthetic design protects the appearance of an article, irrespective of the aesthetic value thereof. A functional design protects the appearance of an article which appearance involves a function to perform.

Distinguishing your goods or services from the goods or services of others. Trademarks protect your brand as it is know to the public, whether it be your name, logo, slogan or even packaging. Once a trademark is registered in South Africa, provided it is renewed every 10 years, it can last forever. Examples of trademarks include: business name, product name, campaign name, slogan, logo, shape, three-dimensional marks, holograms, motions / multimedia, positions, gestures, olfactory (smells / scents), sounds / tunes, tastes, textures.

Plant breeders’ rights 
A form of intellectual property rights granted to breeders of new plant varieties for protection of their varieties against exploitation without their permission. To be granted rights, a plant variety must be new, distinct, uniform, stable and have an acceptable denomination (variety name). Well known plant species protected by plant breeders’ rights include: (1) the peppadew plant which classifies as a fruit, (2) flowers such as carnation varieties bred for high tolerance to fusarium, (3) wheat varieties bred for enhanced productivity and varietal improvement, (4) and seedless table grapes that are easier to produce.

Geographical indications
Signs used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities, a reputation or characteristics that are essentially attributable to that place of origin. Most commonly, a geographical indication includes the name of the place of origin of the goods. Well known geographical indications include: Tequila (Mexico), Rooibos (South Africa), Champagne (France), Parmesan Cheese (Italy), Scotch Whisky, Darjeeling Tea, Swiss Watches. 

Indigenous knowledge / Traditional knowledge
Traditional knowledge is the lasting wisdom, teachings and practices of indigenous communities which have been passed from generation to generation. Traditional knowledge recognises, understands, integrates and promotes indigenous resources. The protection of indigenous knowledge, and the holders of such knowledge, awards rights against exploitation. This will also include ensuring that communities receive fair and sustained recognition and, where appropriate, financial remuneration for the use of their knowledge.