South Africa: Survey Highlights The Importance Of Being Earnest: About Trade Marks

Last Updated: 28 August 2014
Article by Manisha Bugwandeen-Doorasamy

Most Read Contributor in South Africa, September 2016

A recent report in Fin24 entitled 'MTN named SA and Africa's strongest brand' listed South Africa's top 50 brands in terms of brand value. It was based on research done by the brand valuation company, BrandFinance. As the title suggests, MTN came out on top, followed by Sasol, Vodacom, Standard Bank, Absa, Nedbank, FNB, Mediclinic, Investec and Woolworths. Of the top 50 brands, 16 are in the food and beverages sector, 13 in financial services, and five in telecoms. I am also very happy to add that the trade mark management of 9 of the 50 is in the capable hands of ENSafrica's IP Department.

The report said that MTN's value had risen by some 31% over the past year, and that other big risers included Investec with 67% - 'Investec is threatening to turn our Big Four banks into a Big 5' said the report - and Mediclinic with 19%. In fact the trend was positive across the board, with the top 50 having gained 18% in value over that period. BrandFinance MD, Oliver Schmitz, had this to say about the growth: 'You don't see that growth globally. That's why people from overseas are coming to invest here.'

On a regional level, the report said that the Brand Africa 100 Most Valuable Brands in Africa survey showed that South Africa had a 72% share of these brands, followed by Nigeria with 26%, and Kenya with 2%. And in the context on nation branding, the report said that South Africa's national brand value had increased by 116% over the past five years, going from 36th position to 29th.

BrandFinance Africa chairman, Thebe Ikalafeng, drew this interesting link between South African brands and the country's future prospects: 'A thriving "Made in South Africa" and entrepreneurship spirit was what built South Africa's wealth, reputation and competitiveness... For Africa and certainly South Africa to grow independent, create jobs and reduce inequality, it will need to invest in the attributes that built these brands – on top of increasing intra-Africa trade – to challenge global brands in Africa.'

The report, of course, highlights what all top businesses know - that success is linked to having strong brands, that brands are assets that can be extremely valuable, that it's possible to attach a financial value to a brand, and that it may be a good idea to do this exercise if you want a true reflection of your company's worth. Incidentally, there's nothing new in any of this - more than 100 years ago the CEO of Quaker, John Stuart, said this: 'If this business were to be split up, I would be glad to take the brands, trade marks and goodwill, and you could have all the bricks and mortar – and I would fare better than you.'

So how do top businesses take care of their brands? Simple, they take them extremely seriously at every stage of the branding process. A process that starts with brand creation. Top businesses know that a brand can be far more than just a name - that it can be a logo, a stylization, a slogan, even a colour, a store lay-out or a product shape. They also know that the best brands are not those that are descriptive or commonplace, but those that stand out from the crowd. Not only are distinctive brands more likely to succeed commercially, but when it comes to the legal side they're also easier to protect and enforce.

Top businesses take trade mark clearance seriously, making sure that the trade mark is available for use in every country where the product is likely to be sold or offered, bearing in mind any online use that may occur. Where necessary these businesses enter into negotiations with companies that may own conflicting rights, and even engage in legal proceedings to remove troublesome registrations for trade marks that may not actually be in use.

Top businesses take brand protection very seriously, registering their trade marks in all those countries where the products will be sold or offered, and in all the formats in which they may be used and in respect of all the goods or services for which they are likely to be used. But top businesses are also savvy enough to know that there are ways of keeping trade mark registration costs down. They make use of the regional registrations systems that exist in Africa and Europe, they may make use of the international trade mark registration system if they have foreign offices, and they may even minimise the number of trade marks that they need to protect by adopting a monolithic approach to branding, one which entails the use of one or perhaps a few major trade marks which are used in conjunction with a host of descriptors for specific products.

Top businesses use their trade marks smartly, making sure that there's no risk of their trade marks becoming generic, or their registrations becoming open to attack for non-use. They make sure that there's proper licensing in place whenever they authorise third parties to use their trade marks. They monitor the markets they operate in very carefully, looking out for any signs of counterfeiting, infringement or harmful parody, and taking action when necessary. And they keep meticulous records of what trade mark registrations they have, ensuring that they are renewed when required, and that they're in a position to prove use of their trade marks when necessary.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.