Monday 6 August 2012

IP, exchange control and 'capital' in South Africa

Note: this post has also been posted on the Afro-IP weblog but, because of its subject-matter and given that very few IP Finance readers also follow Afro-IP, it seemed appropriate to repost it here.

Back in February 2010 a South African High Court ruled that a trade mark assignment entered into without prior exchange control approval from the South African Treasury did not contravene the South African Exchange Control Regulations. The South African Reserve Bank had previously required treasury approval from any South African entity wishing to transfer intellectual property offshore.Without approval the transfer of rights was null and void.

In Oilwell (Pty) Ltd v Protech International Limited (noted by Afro-IP here) the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) confirmed that foreign exchange approval was no longer required for an assignment of trade marks. The court based its decision on an interpretation of the term 'capital' in the Exchange Control Regulations, which provide that any transaction whereby capital is exported from the republic requires exchange control approval. The SCA held that a trade mark does not constitute 'capital' as envisaged in Regulation 10(1)(c) and that, accordingly, foreign exchange approval was not required to transfer trade marks offshore.

In response to this, the exchange control authorities have now amended the regulations specifically to state that 'capital' does include an IP right, whether registered or not, and that “exported from the republic” includes the transfer of an IP right to a person who is not resident in the Republic of South Africa. This means that it is again necessary for exchange control approval to be obtained when any intellectual property is assigned to an offshore entity.

Source: "Exchange Control Regulations amended in response to Oilwell decision" by Megan Reimers (Spoor & Fisher, Pretoria), Trademark Law Review, 30 July 2012

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