COVID-19: RESUMPTION OF CERTAIN OF CIPC’S KEY IP SERVICES AND FUNCTIONS, SOUTH AFRICA

By Heidi Taylor Friday, May 08, 2020
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On Monday, 4 May 2020, the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) commenced a ‘phased-in’ resumption of normal business operations, including certain key functions in respect of registered intellectual property (IP). This follows the announcement of the easing of the national lockdown from level 5 to level 4 by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

On 30 April 2020, 4 May, and 6 May, the commissioner of the CIPC issued Notice 22 of 2020 (which can be accessed here), Notice 23 of 2020 (which can be accessed here), and Notice 25 of 2020 (which can be accessed here), respectively, regarding the effects of the national lockdown on, and the phased resumption of, the operations of the patents, designs, copyright and trade mark divisions of CIPC.

During the lockdown period, certain limited fully-automated electronic services and facilities (such as the submission of domain name registrations) were operational, and all of CIPC’s external-facing IP systems (including the CIPC’s electronic query system) became operational on 1 May 2020. Other services and facilities became operational on 6 May 2020, albeit with reduced staffing in order to comply with government requirements regarding social distancing, health and safety of staff, and new methods of working.

Resumption of IP services and facilities

The resumption of CIPC’s key IP functions has the following practical consequences (among others):

  • The time periods for calculating the number of days elapsed in terms of the Trade Marks Act, 1993, Patents Act, 1978, Designs Act, 1993, Copyright Act, 1978 and the Registration of Copyright in Cinematograph Film Act, 1977 resumed on 4 May 2020. However, any time periods or deadlines that were due to lapse during the dies non period of 25 March to 30 April 2020 will be deemed to have lapsed on 6 May 2020.
  • The filing date for any applications and documents lodged via any of the IP e-filing platforms or electronic channels will be deemed to be 4 May 2020.
  • Processing of applications and documentation commenced on 4 May 2020.*
  • Manual lodgments of documents are permitted, as of 4 May 2020. Documents must be placed in the drop boxes outside the CIPC office building. No documents will be received in person by any CIPC staff member.*
  • The CIPC Call Centre became available on 4 May 2020.*

*Notice 22 states that the abovementioned services will become operational on 4 May. However, Notice 23 states that the CIPC’s office and work spaces will be prepared and sanitized first. Accordingly, the services confirmed to have commenced on 4 May only recommenced on 6 May 2020.  

The following IP functions and services remain suspended:

  • Until further notice, no external visitors will be allowed at CIPC. Accordingly, no meetings or hearings (such as trade mark-related hearings) will be permitted.
  • The physical inspection of files will be unavailable until further notice.

Delays in the progress and finalisation of matters should be expected. In its Notices, CIPC requested patience from clients regarding the processing of matters, turn-around times and responding to queries. Clients were also requested to refrain from sending reminders on matters in intervals of less than three months.

Additional IP functionality on CIPC IP portal

CIPC offers a number of electronic and physical IP-related services and facilities, including: electronic and physical filing of registered IP (trade marks, patents, designs and registered copyright) applications, electronic searches of registered IP, and an online IP trade portal.

As of May 2020, CIPC introduced other additional functionality for registered users, including extending its IP search functionality to registered designs and films registered under Registration of Copyright in Cinematograph Films Act, 1977.