Intellectual Property, Information Technology & Cybersecurity
Covid-19 – Its Legislative Effect on South Africa, with a Focus on the IP Industry
COVID-19: The impact on IP law and practice in South Africa
Alexis Apostolidis, Darren Olivier and Nicholas Rosslee wrote an article about the COVID-19 measures in South Africa and the impact on IP practice. The article was published by IP STARS (Managing IP).
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown on March 23, starting from March 26 until April 16. The lockdown has now been extended until April 30. The steps taken by the government to protect South Africans from the virus have been bold, and we expect a significant impact on businesses and our economy.
The lockdown has an impact on IP enforcement and protection in South Africa.
Court measures The Heads of Courts in South Africa have imposed minimum safety precautions and limited the court’s capacity to hear matters during the lockdown, mostly to urgent criminal matters. Each court has issued directions on how they intend to operate; they include prioritising urgent matters and conducting case management via electronic means.
In some cases, it has been directed that abuse of the urgent roll will lead to punitive costs awards for the culpable counsel. The likely outcome of this is that the enforcement of IP rights, other than the most urgent matters, will be suspended until the lockdown is lifted.
Impact on the IP Office and IP protection Administrative bodies that are not providing essential services are either fully or partially closed during the lockdown. The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) notified its customers that it would stop transacting from March 24 and will reopen at the end of April, with limited electronic services from April 1. All deadlines have been suspended until the CIPC has reopened.
From a practical point of view, the issue arises where one would like to register certain IP rights immediately; in such instance, it is likely that South Africans will use IP Offices abroad to preserve priority dates. This is particularly important in respect of patent applications for inventions which may be disclosed during the lockdown and design registrations where the six-month grace period from the date of public disclosure is coming to an end.