We all know of the high-end jewellery brands being counterfeited across the world with hundreds of thousands of counterfeit jewellery items being seized in markets in, and at, the borders of most countries.

However, there is another side to 'fake' jewellery in the case of jewellery designers.

What are the implications if a jewellery designer is asked to recreate a well-known piece of jewellery for a customer? This is usually done because the customer believes there is a financial saving, but this could mean the end for the designer.

The implication of this recreation is that the designer will then possibly become a manufacturer of counterfeit goods. High-end jewellery houses usually protect the shape of their well-known jewellery pieces by means of a trade mark, although this can also be done by way of registration of an aesthetic design.

Thus, if the jewellery designer accepts the brief from a customer to recreate a specific piece, the designer may be guilty of counterfeiting – which is a crime in South Africa, and can have dire commercial consequences for them.

Jewellery houses are starting to enforce their jewellery shapes aggressively in order to protect their market, and if a jewellery designer finds themselves on the wrong side of the law, they could end up losing all their manufacturing equipment and material as well – with no consequences to the customer.

Jewellery designers should rather approach an IP attorney to advise whether they can make a certain piece of jewellery for a customer before accepting the brief, particularly if they have been asked to recreate a piece of jewellery designed or manufactured by someone else. In addition, it is imperative that jewellery designers and jewellery houses use the services of an IP attorney to protect the shape of their unique jewellery pieces by means of a trade mark or registered design in order to deter third parties from recreating these goods without their authority. Your IP attorney can also assist in having counterfeit goods seized at the borders of South African and in the marketplace if this protection is in place.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.