MY IDEA EQUALS MY PROPERTY

B1When you think of something original and make a product based on that idea, such as a song, then you essentially have a claim to that product as if it were your own property. Intellectual property (IP) refers to something that is a product of someone’s mind. According to the law people have the right to own their own creations. This includes ideas, inventions, written works, computer programs and the names and logos of companies or consumer items.  IP rights are important as it protects people’s creations and motivates people, companies and industries to be more innovative with their ideas. Transgressing a person’s IP rights can have serious consequences. In the case of Vodacom’s ‘Please Call Me’ service, for example, a share of billions of Rands had to be paid out to the man who came up with the original idea, Kenneth Nkosana Makate.

What types of IP rights are there?

There are four types of IP in South Africa. They include trademarks, copyright, patents and designs.

  1. Patents protect inventions.
  2. Trade marks protect a unique name or symbol that is used to identify a business or product.
  3. Copyright protects the original works of authors, composers, artists, musicians, film-makers and software developers.
  4. Designs can be registered to protect the visual and aesthetic appearance of a product or a functional aspect of a product, such as a kitchen appliance.

The value of having IP rights

Having IP rights have many benefits for a company or individual who has created something. It’s firstly a great reward for the creator behind the product because it means others can’t profit from their ideas without their consent. It also protects their ideas and creations from being stolen or reproduced by someone else. This encourages innovation because people or companies would have to come up with their own ideas instead of stealing other people’s ideas. One of the biggest benefits is that the owner of the IP rights can make a lot of money if his/her product is extremely valuable or popular. An author of a book, for example, can make a good amount of money if their book is popular and could go on to write more books under the same title.

Vodacom and Mr Makate

In April 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that Vodacom must compensate inventor of the ‘Please Call Me’ SMS product, Kenneth Nkosana Makate. Makate came up with the idea of the ‘Please Call Me’ after he wanted an easier way of communicating with his then girlfriend and now wife. After conceiving the idea in 2000, Makate approached Vodacom’s then director and head of product development, Philip Geissler. Geissler and Makate made an oral agreement that the product would be tried out and, if commercially viable, a share of the proceeds would be paid to Makate. Since the ‘Please Call Me’ product was introduced in 2001, it has made billions in revenue for Vodacom. However, Makate was never paid a share of the profit as promised and brought the case to a court in 2008. The Constitutional Court’s decision means that Makate will see a share of the billions of Rands Vodacom made from his initial idea. The court ruling shows that a person’s idea is not something that others can casually steal and profit from.

IP Limitations

Having exclusive rights to a product or creation doesn’t necessarily last forever. This differs for the type of IP rights you have. A patent lasts for 20 years, but designs only last for between 10 or 15 years. Copyright is simpler and lasts for as long as 50 years after the death of the author. So someone who holds copyright over a piece of original work, such as a novel, keeps it with no renewal fees. Trade marks can remain indefinitely, as long as renewal fees are paid every decade.

References

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

CAN SURROGATE PARENTS GET MATERNITY LEAVE?

B2Alex and Ben are in love and decide to enter into a civil union on 31 October 2010 in terms of the Civil Union Act[1]. Everything is going great and a year later they decide as a couple to enter into a surrogacy agreement with a surrogate mother in terms of which they shall have a baby. The surrogacy agreement was in accordance with the Children’s Act[2] and was confirmed by Court Order.

Ben and Alex discussed the logistics pertaining to their new bundle of joy. In terms of the Surrogacy Agreement they will be handed the child directly after birth, without the surrogate even catching sight of it. One or both of them will have to be available to care for the new-born from the moment of birth.

They decided that Alex would be the one to apply to his employer for paid maternity leave for a period of four months. This maternity application to his employer was in terms of the prescriptions of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act[3] (BCEA) and more specifically in terms of his company’s policy on maternity leave.

The company’s decision

Alex received feedback from his Human Resources Department, informing him that his application for maternity leave was rejected in terms of the company’s policy and the BCEA, as neither provides for the issuing of maternity leave for surrogate parents. As a counter offer Alex was offered and subsequently accepted two months paid adoption leave and two months’ unpaid leave.

Alex referred the dispute to the CCMA on the basis of unfair discrimination, because his company refused to grant his application for maternity leave due to the fact that he is not the biological mother of his child. They further argued that a commissioning parent party to a surrogacy agreement is not entitled, in terms of their company policy, to the full and due four months paid leave as females are under the same policy.

Alex was not at all satisfied with the treatment received by his company and he felt that he has been discriminated against, as the Children’s Act and the Civil Union Act both recognised his status and rights as a commissioning parent. There was therefore no excuse as to why his company and the BCEA should not recognise it as well.

The CCMA, upon hearing the matter, established that Alex’s company’s policies were similar but more stringent than the BCEA in that they provided separately for adoption leave as offered to Alex and Ben, and not at all for surrogacy rights to leave. Furthermore, it came to light that due to recent legislative developments as mentioned above, there was no reason why Alex should not be entitled to maternity leave and that such maternity leave should be granted for the full and/or same period as any other mother is entitled to.

Upon hearing submissions from Alex, Ben and Alex’s employer the CCMA decided that by refusing Alex’s application for maternity leave Alex was unfairly discriminated against by the company in its implementation and structure of its archaic maternity leave policy.

The result

The CCMA ordered that Alex be paid an amount equivalent to two months’ salary for the previously granted unpaid leave. In addition, Alex’s company must recognise the status of parties to a civil union and not discriminate against the rights of commissioning parents who have entered into a surrogacy agreement, in applying its maternity leave policy. The company was also ordered to pay Alex’s costs of having to bring this application.

Legislative intervention is needed in this regard in order to adequately and undeniably address the rights of commissioning parents to maternity leave. This case pertained to company policies and was addressed as such, but Alex and Ben initially sought relief for themselves and other similarly placed applicants so as to prevent unfair discrimination against them in this regard.

[1] Act 17 of 2006

[2] Act 38 of 2005; Chapter 19

[3] Act 75 of 1997; Section 25 (hereinafter BCEA)

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

DEMYSTIFYING THE PROBATE PROCESS

B3During a person’s lifetime s/he will gather assets, in other words, belongings such as a house or a motor vehicle. These assets and liabilities will form part of a person’s estate. At the death of that person, his/her deceased estate must be administered, in other words, divided, distributed and controlled by someone. This person is called an executor.

However, the role of an estate executor and who can be appointed as one has been largely misunderstood.

What does the executor do?

“Executor” is the legal term for referring to the person, or people, nominated in your will to carry out the directives you set out in your will.

  1. This means that it is the executor’s responsibility to disburse your property to the mentioned beneficiaries in your will, but also obtain information on potential heirs, collecting and arranging payments, and approving or disapproving creditors’ claims.
  2. It is the executor’s duty to calculate and pay the estate tax, and to ensure that the correct documentation is filed with the relevant authorities.
  3. The executor is the individual that represents your estate.

Who can be appointed as the executor?

It has become normal to appoint a friend, family member or beneficiary to act as the executor, as they most likely have intimate knowledge of your estate and your affairs, but also, they will not rack up the fees that a legal body might accrue.

However, there is a misconception that you can avoid the fees by appointing a family member as the estate executor, but this could also mean that you are deferring the cost to the nominated family member.

  1. Family members appointed as executors on larger estates immediately find themselves out of their depth, and not only end up hiring a professional executor, but may also pay more for these services than necessary.
  2. A simple way to address this is by appointing a “professional” executor during your lifetime. This allows you to negotiate the executor fees.

If you appoint a family member, make sure that they understand that they will have to appoint a professional agent, and that they should negotiate the fee and be very cautious of agreeing to a fee arrangement in terms of which the professional agent charges their professional fee, instead of the legislated scale.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

FEARING FORECLOSURE: WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS AS THE HOMEOWNER?

B4The recent junk status announcement has shaken us into a quick action of tightening our belts and letting go of luxuries to afford our day to day expenses. This financial condition inhibits the possibility of purchasing a new house, let alone affording your current home.  Have you thought about what you would do if your foreclosure wiped its shoes on your doormat?

You have the option to sell

Selling, rather than waiting for foreclosure, offers a greater possibility of you receiving greater value for your home. You may choose to sell privately or through an estate agent. It is advisable that your qualified conveyancing attorney be notified of any concerns, as well as any interests of potential buyers. During this time, look for alternative home solutions, and consider a suitable transfer date.

  • Prior to the signing of the agreement of sale and the transfer of ownership, the property still belongs to you.

You have time

Before receiving a foreclosure notice, the bank allows a grace period for you to catch up on your bond instalments. It may be difficult to do so, considering your finances have already been tightrope walking over the past few months. Meeting with your bank allows the opportunity for a payment restructure to be discussed and agreed upon.

  • The repossession procedure is paused during the time you are in application of or in debt review. The National Credit Act allows this opportunity.

Approach your lawyer

If, after attempting to recover payments, you receive foreclosure summons, contact your lawyer. As stated by section 26(3) of the South African Constitution, your eviction may not be finalised without an official court order. The courts consider all relevant circumstances before reaching a final eviction decision.

  • You may not be arbitrarily removed from your home.

You won’t be homeless

You have the right to adequate housing, despite your previous or current economic standing. Adequacy is determined by a place to eat, shelter, a place to sleep, and a place to raise a family, and this accessibility is the responsibility of the state. Following the outcome of the sale by the bank, the home is no longer in your ownership, and the state classifies you as an unlawful occupier.

  • The eviction process will then follow that of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act.

References:

  • National Credit Act
  • Constitution of the Republic of South Africa [1996]
  • Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act [No. 19 of 1996]

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)