The aim of this paper is to examine the perception and validity of commercial design protection in the South African Jewellery Industry and to convey the general consensus regarding the registration of commercial designs. This exploratory study employs quantitative research and information was collated through a questionnaire that was distributed by the Jewellery Council of South Africa. The questionnaire gauged, inter alia, whether South African jewellers are aware of the Designs Act, the design registration process and which commercial designs are registered.
Over the years, it has become increasingly important for jewellery companies and individual designers to protect their original commercial jewellery designs from being reproduced. A company can create specific commercial designs to represent the image of their company, such as the case of Browns Jewellers’ Protea collection and Shimansky’s Millennium ring design. The most common practice to protect mass-produced commercial jewellery designs in South Africa is to register a design at the South African Design office. According to the section 1 (1) of the Designs Act No.195 of 1993 (South Africa), a commercial jewellery design can be registered as an “aesthetic design”, which mainly refers to the visual protection of the pattern, shape, configuration or ornamentation of the article.
Some local jewellery companies have registered commercial designs according to the Designs Act (South Africa) and over 140 designs are currently recorded in the jewellery domain. Yet, such designs and other protected jewellery designs are still reproduced in South Africa. Conversely, many designers underestimate design protection and do not realize that designs are important intellectual property that is a valuable asset for any business.
The paper discusses the findings of the questionnaire and based on the results, the perception of commercial jewellery design registration in the Jewellery Industry becomes evident. These perceptions would be used as a guideline in the dissemination of information pertaining to design registration and would aid in a greater understanding and awareness of protected designs and the design registration process.