Some of the frequently asked questions about trademark registrations are briefly answered below.
Why consider trademark registrations?
Although seemingly a lengthy process, trademark registrations help to ensure that once completed successfully that the holder of the rights will have monopoly rights over the usage of the registered marks. This will help deter others from using similar marks or marks that can confuse the consumer ensuring that you can brand your products and services. If infringement of your rights takes place, you will have the right to take legal steps against the perpetrator.
What exactly is a trademark?
It is any mark, wording, or phrase or combination of wording and a logo or a logo alone, which will distinguish your goods and services from the ones of competitors in South Africa, and internationally, if registered internationally. A Trademark is a mark which distinguishes your goods or services from goods or services of others in South Africa, or elsewhere. Trade marks are registerable in terms of the South African Trade Marks Act No 194 of 1993 and subject to certain requirements may be renewed indefinitely, thereby ensuring the continuity of your brand.
Which act regulates trademarks in South Africa?
The South African Trademarks Act No. 194 of 1993 governs trademarks in South Africa.
How long is a trademark valid?
The trademark can be renewed indefinitely ensuring that a brand can have longevity. Once a Trade Mark is registered in South Africa, it needs to be renewed every 10 years to stay in force. However, provided you continue renewing your trade mark registration in South Africa, your rights to the trade mark may last indefinitely. A registered trade mark can be protected forever, provided it is renewed every 10 years upon payment of the prescribed renewal fee. If your registered trade mark has not been used in South Africa for a continuous period of 5 years, another person may apply to have it removed from the Register.
Can a trademark be challenged on the grounds of non-usage?
Yes, if a trademark is not used for the product and class it was originally registered for over a period of time, its validity can be challenged.
Is a company name a trademark?
No, company names are registered apart from trademarks and as such you will need to register your company name as a trademark if you want to have the protection that comes with it being registered as such. A Company registration is independent of a trademark registration. Your company may have built up a substantial reputation which may be eroded by competitors who may not even have a registered company.