May 15th, 2020

By Vanessa Ferguson

On the 23 April 2020 the President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the full national lockdown that has been in place since 27 March, will shift to a system of alert levels to support the gradual phased recovery of economic activity, consisting of five alert levels:  Level 5 being the most stringent measures, moving to Level 1 where most normal activity can resume with precautions and health guidelines followed at all times..

As of 1 May 2020, South Africa moved into Level 4, with the much welcomed resumption of certain services impacting IP practice:

CIPC resumption of Key IP services and functions

CIPCcommenced a phased-in approach in the resumption of normal business operationsfrom 4 May 2020, following the move from Level 5 to Level 4 of the COVID-19 National Lockdown.

CIPC closed due to the National lockdown from 25 March 2020 to 30 April 2020, and all time periods and deadlines due to have lapsed during this dies non period, including but not limited to time periods under the Paris Convention and for lodging of renewals, were only deemed as lapsed on 6 May 2020.

All online services and e-filing platforms are now available to users, which provides for conducting of searches and filing of applications for registration of trade marks, patents & designs.

No external visitors are allowed at CIPC and no hearings before the Registrar are taking place during this phase in the resumption of services.

Operation of Courts

Courts and the deeds office are listed under permitted Level 4 services, although most court operations around the country are limited to urgent cases and few people allowed inside the court building during Level 4 lockdown. Practice directives are being published by the respective courts governing procedures in order to address and prevent the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa.

Borders & Ports

All borders of the Republic remain closed during the period of Alert Level 4, except for ports of entry designated by the Cabinet member responsible for home affairs and for the transportation of fuel, cargo and approved goods during the period of Alert Level 4.

The movement of cargo by rail, ocean, air and road to other countries and within the Republic of South Africa is permitted in respect of specific goods set out in the lockdown Regulations are being transported, namely: Essential goods for import; Import of materials and components required for manufacturing activities allowed under Alert Level 4;Cargo at ports of entry; Goods cleared at ports of entry for removal in transit through the Republic destined for neighbouring countries; Permitted goods for export as set out in the Lockdown Regulations (Agricultural, agro-processing, forestry and fishing products, manufacturing productions and mining products for production under Alert Level 4); Transport of goods within the Republic; Any other goods as set out in the Directions of relevant Cabinet members

Online sales

Government has lifted the restrictions on online shopping, allowing online stores to sell everything except alcohol and cigarettes.

Counterfeit & Illicit goods

With the move to Alert Level 4, we note an increase in the trade and detection of counterfeit goods in South Africa and neighbouring territories.

Based on the limitations in respect of trade in South Africa under Alert Level 4, local manufacturing and re-routing of goods through neighbouring territories and other diversion strategies, will be on rise, in order to overcome the Alert Level 4 Regulatory measures.

The illicit trade in prohibited goods such as cigarettes and alcohol are thriving, boosting the criminal networks reach and income.