André Meyer has over 15 years experience in Intellectual Property law in both South Africa and Australia. His broad experience across multiple industries has given him a holistic understanding of IP law, and makes him an expert in the IP field.
Tell us a bit about Meyer West IP
Meyer West IP is a boutique IP firm specialising in securing and enforcing IP rights. We particularly assist clients to register trade marks for their trade and brand names and to secure design registrations for the unique shape of their products. As far as patents are concerned we focus on inventions of a mechanical nature, particularly inventions in the field of mining, building products and medical devices.
How did you decide to specialise in IP?
At the time of leaving school I knew I wanted to become a lawyer. However, I was not interested in private law, for example family law or law of estates. An uncle of mine who practiced as a lawyer told me about patent attorneys. As patent attorneys work with new technology they are required to have a technical background. I accordingly studied mechanical engineering and thereafter completed a law degree. Patent law is a fascinating field of the law as you get to work with new technology well before it makes it to the market.
What can be patented?
In the field of mechanical inventions, a device must be novel worldwide. It must also not be an obvious modification on what is already known to persons working in a relevant field of technology.
Why should a manufacturer seek patent protection?
Without a patent, third parties are free to copy an invention. In effect third parties can reap the benefit from the expense you incurred in developing a new product. A patent can give you a significant edge over competitors as it will afford you a monopoly of your new invention.
What type of trade marks can be registered?
Provided the sign you use as a trade mark is capable of distinguishing your goods and/or services from those of others, you can explore registering the trade mark. Examples of trade marks are trade names, logos and the shape of products. It is even possible to trade mark a scent. Often businesses adopt a name which is descriptive of their services, for example Sydney Plumbers. Such names are not able to be registered.
Why should someone register their trade mark?
Your trade mark is the sign by which others identify you in the market. You do not want others to trade on the goodwill that you have worked hard to establish. Also, you do not want persons seeking to buy your product inadvertently buying another person’s product. A registered trade mark is key in addressing such disputes.
When should someone speak to an IP specialist?
It is so important to seek advice as early as possible. Adopting a trade mark or choosing a business name before checking that there are no registered trade marks is playing with fire and can be very costly when one is forced to rebrand.
How does one obtain a worldwide patent?
There is no such thing as a worldwide patent. Patents are territorial rights and you are required to file a patent application in each country where protection is required.
What are some of the key consequences when IP protection is not taken seriously?
I have seen people spending large sums of money rebranding after receiving letters of demand for trade mark infringement. I have seen also seen manufacturers investing in R&D to have that investment appropriated by free riders copying good inventions. In our current “knowledge economy” businesses who neglect IP will continue to lose ground against IP savvy competitors and even risk going out of business all together.