Entrepreneurs are considered to be sharp-witted people who create or recognise opportunities and are well-positioned to take advantage of them. By way of innovative thinking and the willingness for risk taking, new processes and products are created and new companies are positioned to enter the markets.

Many entrepreneurs in the current economic climate in South Africa and abroad are unaware that intellectual property, more specifically registered trade marks, can assist them in serving as security for a debt or obligation while at the same time affording the owner with exclusive statutory rights to monopolise and use their brand in trading in relation to a specific product. Trade marks are also seen as providing a legal basis for companies' branding strategies.

Intellectual property is a synonym for intangible assets to distinguish them from tangible assets, in that intangible assets are something of value that cannot be physically touched, for example, trade marks, patents, copyright and registered designs. Branding has become commonplace and appreciated for the competitive advantages that it offers. It has become so well recognised that current accountancy practice requires intellectual property to be listed on balance sheets at valuation.

Turning the focus specifically to trade marks (alongside patents and copyright) trade marks are one of the more important intellectual property rights and are endowed with a unique economic function, such as quality, advertising and competitiveness. In addition, trade marks further promote the following functions:

  • Help to identify the source and person/entity responsible for products and services;
  • Enables consumers to choose goods and/or services with ease while shopping;
  • Consumers will choose a particular trade mark for its known quality;
  • Trade marks play an important role in advertising as consumers are likely to base their purchase on the continuous influence of advertising; and
  • The main economic function of trade marks is to signal quality and goodwill to the prospective consumer.
  • An established trade mark is a valuable asset and may be licensed or franchised.

It is strongly recommended that entrepreneurs, specifically in the financial sector, protect their trade mark rights and leverage the value thereof.

There are various avenues to explore in order to maximise the value of one's trade mark, such as:

  • Intensive brand and product research through analysing and testing the market for the need;
  • Extensive marketing of the brand or product to create awareness in the public domain;
  • Insightful information around the goods or products to create a need with prospective customers;
  • Create a brand custodian of all the registered trade marks;
  • Maintain registered trade marks through timeous renewal.

At Spoor & Fisher, as the leading intellectual property law firm in Africa, we are committed to guide and provide entrepreneurs with innovative solutions and to place their interests first. We are a team of expert professionals who make every effort to provide clients with fast, accurate and personalised service that exceeds expectations.

Our aim is to ensure that our clients' intellectual property rights are enforced and protected through all available means. We combine powerful intellect and the diverse skills and talents of our professional team to ensure that your brand is secured and looked after.

Going back in history, it is fascinating to realise that entrepreneurship dates back to the 18th century, when innovative people like Samuel Crompton (spinning mule), UK; Milton Hershey (candy maker), USA, James Watt (steam engine), used creative ideas to develop new processes and products.

Their innovative ideas all constitute valuable intellectual property rights which are protectable through patents (spinning mule; candy maker and steam engine), copyright (the drawings and designs in material form), trade marks (the branding of the process and/or product) and registered designs (for a specific functional or aesthetic feature).

When protected, the value of intellectual property extends far beyond an individual product or process.

At Spoor & Fisher we believe that intellectual property created should be owned.

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.