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
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.
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It has always been the practice of the Industrial Property Institute of Mozambique to prohibit the refiling of trade marks that have been finally refused, which has posed a serious obstacle to trade mark applicants...
A recent Australian decision on keyword usage of a registered trade mark is in line with decisions in many other countries, including South Africa.
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