IP Law 101 with Helene Viljoen

Intellectual Property Law for Speakers
Safeguarding your treasure chest

PSASA Virtual Chapter Meeting, Tuesday, 14 May 2024
IP Law 101 with Helene Viljoen

If you’ve ever been afraid that your original content would be stolen from you or worse, actually had your content stolen, fear not! There are legal protections applicable for your original works in South Africa and fully extend across borders.

Introducing Intellectual Property Law
At the May 2024 PSASA Virtual Chapter meeting, intellectual property attorney Helene Viljoen gave speakers a crash course in IP Law for our industry. One could really see Helene’s intimate knowledge of the subject just from how easy and accessible she made the content she delivered. For this session, she took us through South African Intellectual Property (IP) laws pertaining to copyright and trademarks and how we as speakers and creators can protect our creations.

In short, South African copyright and trademark laws play a vital role in protecting the creative works of individuals and commercial brands.

Under the Copyright Act, creators of artistic, written, and musical works gain automatic protection upon the creation of their works without needing to formally register them. This protection extends to a wide variety of creations, including books, films, music, and even software.

Copyright holders have exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and adapt their works, which allows them to monetize their creations and safeguard their artistic integrity. To reflect a work as copyrighted, the holder must either add the copyright symbol (©), their name and surname, and the year the work was created whenever the work is shown. Alternatively, they can add the word ‘Copyright’, their name and surname, and the year the work was created whenever the work is shown.

Of course, certain limitations and exceptions (such as fair use provisions) are in place to see to the public interest when appropriate. An excellent example of this would be if a certain work is used within a classroom environment or is included in news reporting.

Trademarks are governed by the Trademarks Act, which protects distinctive signs used to identify goods and services in the marketplace. These include brand names, logos, or slogans. Trademarks, unlike copywritten works, must be formally registered and it is this registration that grants owners exclusive rights to use their marks. This prevents others from outright stealing their IP, or from using confusingly similar marks.

During the session, we also learned that there are specific categories in place for trademarks, and upon registration are assigned into those categories. This protects your existing trademarks from being undermined or stolen by someone effectively registering a trademark of their own for the same thing you have trademarked. An example of this is how Cobra floor polish, Cobra taps, and Cobra sports equipment are each separate but equally valid and registered trademarks.

International IP Agreements
Both copyright and trademarks in South Africa benefit from the country’s adherence to international agreements, which ensure that South African creators and businesses enjoy protection for their IP rights in foreign jurisdictions, facilitating international trade and fostering cross-border collaboration.

These laws are especially effective for you as a creative when they are contravened.
Not only can you sue for monetary compensation in the instance of theft or unauthorized use but in certain cases, perpetrators can also be jailed for contravening copyright and trademark protections.

Top 3 Takeaways

  • While it may seem daunting at first, IP laws are not as complicated as we think they are
  • Copyright and Trademarks are different:
    • Copyright protects artistic, written, and musical works and apply automaticallywithout the need to be registered
    • Trademarks protect distinctive signs including brand names, logos, or slogans, and must be registered for protections to apply

South African creatives, be we individuals or enterprises, benefit from the protection of our IP even in international jurisdictions

About Guest Speaker Helene Viljoen
Helene is an attorney with a specialized focus on contract law, media law and intellectual property law, and is the founding director of Helene Viljoen Incorporated, a legal consultancy with the aforementioned specialization.

Find Helene and her firm online at:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/helene-viljoen-b1531676/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heleneviljoenlaw

In summary South African creatives of any and every type, and the content we create, are protected by the robust legal frameworks we have surrounding copyright and trademarks. This protection serves to incentivize creativity and promote innovation in the short term, and support economic growth in the long term by ensuring financial gains from copyrighted and trademarked content go to the appropriate people!

Written by:
Siya Mdingi
“The Voice of Value” – Value Creation strategist & Thought leader | Developing businesses and non-profits with Value Strategy | Speaker