It’s the most beautiful object in South Africa – and it’s protected! Thabisa Mjo’s Tutu 2.0 Pendant Light was recently awarded the illustrious #MBOISA title at Design Indaba 2018.

It’s easy to see why it won the accolade – a stunning use of both western and African fashion styles. For the story of Thabisa’s design inspiration, read the BizCommunity article here. “It’s surreal and validating. The fact that this was voted for by the public lets me know that I’m on the right track, that I can build a legitimate design business because my products resonate with the public, who are ultimately the client,” she says of the experience.

Looks and validation aren’t the only things going for Thabisa’s light – it’s also a protected design. “We are absolutely delighted that Thabisa’s design has been selected as the MBOISA. When we first met her, it was shortly after she had was the co-winner of Nando’s Hot Young Designer in 2015. Thabisa’s TUTU lamp design is beautiful and we immediately applied to register the design on her behalf,” says Adams & Adams Partner, Mariëtte du Plessis.

“We were impressed with Thabisa’s business-like approach. She had already registered a company, registered a domain and her website featuring a number of her designs, was up and running. We also assisted her in registering a trade mark for her equally striking MASH T Design logo.”

We asked Thabisa why she feels that design registration is so important. “The world has become so small thanks to the internet and the exchanging of ideas is constantly happening. This is obviously a great thing, especially for designers. However, the downside to this is that your ideas can be so easily ‘borrowed’.”

As with many forms of intellectual property, the design registered for Thabisa’s TUTU lamp provides her with the right to prevent others from copying the lamp. The protection provided by the registered design is relatively broad, in that it specifically allows Thabisa to prevent others from making, using, importing, or selling a similar lamp. The ultimate aim, of course, is to enable Thabisa to reap the rewards arising from her creative skills.

“Having your design registered just adds a layer of protection and really gives one peace of mind. It doesn’t matter how far your design travels, you will always get credited for it and accordingly enumerated because of the design registration. Your IP is protected which is really invaluable,” she adds.

As with many forms of intellectual property, the design registered for Thabisa’s TUTU lamp provides her with the right to prevent others from copying the lamp. The protection provided by the registered design is relatively broad, in that it specifically allows Thabisa to prevent others from making, using, importing, or selling a similar lamp. The ultimate aim, of course, is to enable Thabisa to reap the rewards arising from her creative skills.

So what are the most important considerations for designers in respect of design protection? “Firstly, the creator should seek legal advice sooner rather than later, and preferably before any public disclosure of the new product. The reason for this is simply to provide the creator with as many options as possible, especially if a patent application is to be filed for the same product and/or corresponding design applications are to be filed in other countries. Interestingly, in this regard, South Africa has a relatively unique provision in that a valid design may still be filed even after the product has been disclosed, provided the design application is filed within 6 months after the product has been disclosed. Secondly, South Africa has two types of design protection available, namely aesthetic designs and functional designs. An aesthetic design aims to protect a product with features that appeal to and judged solely by the eye (i.e. the aesthetic ‘look’ of an article), whereas a functional design aims to protect a product having features which are necessitated by the function which the product is to perform. Thabisa’s TUTU lamp is a good example of an aesthetic design. Thirdly, products covered by design applications need to be filed in a particular class. The correct classification is critical since protection is limited to the class in which the application has been filed. In Thabisa’s case, the application was filed in class 26, which covers lighting apparatuses.” – Patent Attorney and Adams & Adams Partner, Johnny Fiandeiro.

And how easy or difficult was it for Thabisa to go through the design registration process? “It was easy, seamless because I had the great fortune of working with Adams &Adams lawyers who explained the whole process and handled everything for me.” #TuTuEasy!