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Here's what you need to know about protecting your intellectual property

Is it ethical or legal to change a part of a product developed by someone else and market it as an entirely new product?

There's been a public outcry after allegations by Shannon McLaughlin that Woolworths copied her Ubuntu baby carrier design.

Woolies has now responded by pulling the product from its shelves.

Read: Woolies to pull baby carrier from shelves after copying controversy

Dr Owen Dean, intellectual property law consultant at Spoor and Fisher, says that in the first place, there is a difference between what is ethical and what is unlawful.

Arguably, to take someone else's creation and just copy it is unethical, but whether it is unlawful depends on various circumstances.

Dr Owen Dean, intellectual property law consultant at Spoor and Fisher

Dr Dean explains that one can freely copy anything unless there is a prohibition against it.

Our prohibitions come about through intellectual property law and more particularly registration as a patent or as a design or as a trademark or relying on copyright.

Dr Owen Dean, intellectual property law consultant at Spoor and Fisher

But what happens when a product has not been registered?

Dr Dean says the complainant may well be able to rely on copyright if they want to bring a claim.

They would have to prove two important things.

If you make a drawing, for instance the design for a carrier for children, once you have put pen to paper and you have a drawing of that article you have copyright in that drawing.

Dr Owen Dean, intellectual property law consultant at Spoor and Fisher

What you do have to show is that not only it's your own work but that the other party.... has actually copied what you have produced, that they haven't arrived at it independently.

Dr Owen Dean, intellectual property law consultant at Spoor and Fisher

Listen to the full conversation on copyright with Dr Dean below:


This article first appeared on 702 : Here's what you need to know about protecting your intellectual property


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