Hello... hello... can you hear me... hello... is that Cell C... yes hello (You have 1 minute of airtime remaining)... oh bugger... hello... listen that new logo you want to bring out, I think it's ridiculous, you really need to re-think that... hello... can you hear me... hello (Your airtime has expired).

If only that call had been made on a landline, Cell C might not have found itself in the pickle it finds itself in now. Forget the brouhaha over whether it's smart to shift your marketing focus from a woman with an arrestingly erotic voice to a South African comedian (yes well spotted, that is an example of an oxymoron!), the real fuss is over Cell C's decision to replace its logo, the ineffectual little spotted C, with something that looks remarkably like the copyright symbol.

Cell C's trade mark applications for its new logo have been refused, although these aren't final refusals and further steps are possible. The provisional refusals come as no surprise - there is a prohibition in the Regulations to the Trade Marks Act about symbols that suggest intellectual property registration. And, of course, there's the little issue of a mark needing to be distinctive. The copyright symbol is hardly distinctive of one company, and just imagine what the effect of such a registration might be – Cell C would be jumping on competitors like MTN and Vodacom for simply indicating that their marketing material has copyright.

According to the reports, Cell C claims that it was never its intention to have a logo looking like the copyright symbol. Clearly some plans fail. Instead, we're told, the idea was to convey that the customer is at the centre of everything that Cell C does. A sort of Make Da Circle Bigger philosophy maybe!

You do have to wonder how something like this can happen. A company spends a fortune on rebranding (R160 million apparently), and it chooses a logo that's going to be very difficult if not impossible to register. Which doesn't means that the logo can't be used, but it does mean that it can't be monopolised. Lawyers and marketers fight a constant battle about brand names, with lawyers pushing for distinctive, registrable names, and marketers insisting on descriptive but hard-to-register names. But it's really quite unusual for a company to opt for a corporate logo that's so fraught with difficulties.

There are lessons to be learnt here. Speak to your lawyer and C. For yourself!

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