Rooibos Trade Mark Dispute

Intellectual Property
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Once again South Africa finds itself in a dispute over the Rooibos Geographical Indication trademark. A French company is trying to register the trademark “Rooibos” in France, and will be able to do os if the South African government doesn’t register the Geographical Indication for Rooibos.

Rooibos is a member of the legume family of plants growing in South Africa’s fynbos. The Rooibos leaves are used to make a tisane called red tea, bush tea or simply Rooibos. The product has been popular in Southern Africa for generations and is now sold in many countries. Just like Boerewors, Braais, Melktert and Biltong, Rooibos tea is considered by many as our national beverage. Grown exclusively in the Cape Province’s Fynbos region, this unique South African plant is recognized across the world for its contribution to a healthy lifestyle and refreshing taste.

In 1994, Burke International registered the name “Rooibos” with the US Patent and Trademark Office in order to establishing a monopoly on the name in the U.S. When Rooibos later entered more widespread use, Burke demanded that companies either pay fees for use of the name, or cease its use, but in 2005, the American Herbal Products Association and a number of import companies succeeded in defeating the trademark through petitions and lawsuits, and after losing one of the cases, Burke surrendered the name to the public domain.