South Africa: Aggregator Websites And Trade Marks

Last Updated: 17 May 2016
Article by Gaelyn Scott

Most Read Contributor in South Africa, September 2016

A recent South African court ruling dealing with one company's use of another's trade mark on an aggregator website has attracted some interest.

The case in question is Car Find (Pty) Ltd v Car Trader (Pty) Ltd and Others (South Gauteng High Court, Judge van Oosten, 12 February 2016). The facts were that Car Find, which is involved in the used car trade industry, has registrations for the trade mark CARFIND in class 35, covering advertising and business services, and in class 38, for telecommunications services. Car Find sued competitor Car Trader for using the CARFIND trade mark on website without authority. Car Trader's site is an aggregator website that provides information about car sales and is aimed at car dealers, who need a subscription to use the site. The trade mark CARFIND pops up on the website alongside the trade marks of other car retailers, like Surf4cars and Auto Mart, which effectively allows subscribers direct access to a number of car retail sites without having to access them separately.

The case was brought as a matter of urgency and the first issue the court had to decide on was whether the case was in fact urgent. Somewhat surprisingly, some may argue, the court decided that the matter was urgent, despite the fact that Car Find had been aware of Car Trader's use for some three months before it had taken action. The court justified this finding by referring to this comment that appears in the book "Kerr on Injunctions" and which was quoted with approval in the earlier South African decision of Tullen Industries Ltd v A de Souza Costa (Pty) Ltd and Others 1976 (4) SA 220 (W): "The life of a trade mark depends on the promptitude with which it is vindicated."

The next issue was whether there had been infringement. This was what is known by lawyers as an "identical mark/identical goods case" (section 34(1)(a) of the South African Trade Marks Act 194 of 1993). The court had no doubt that there was an infringement and delivered a very short judgment finding that Car Find was entitled to an interdict: "It is common cause that a portal, identical to the trade mark, appears on the website, in the course of trade, in relation to advertising, for which the trade mark is registered, in respect of which no authorisation exists. I have made the finding that the respondents are using the trade mark and it follows that all requirements necessary to an entitlement to a final interdict, in order to protect the trade mark, have been established."

Should this decision be appealed (and there are indications that it may be), this, perhaps, will not be a bad thing, given the brevity of the judgment and the importance of this matter to modern business. Some lawyers have expressed surprise that there was not at least some discussion on the keywords (AdWords) cases (although the issue is not quite the same, there are similarities). The keywords cases deal with the issue of whether or not it is an infringement of a registered trade mark for a third party to buy that trade mark as a keyword, with the result that people searching the trade mark are directed to its advertising material rather than that of the trade mark owner. In a long line of cases in a number of countries in Europe and in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, the courts have made it clear that using a competitor's trade mark as a keyword is lawful, provided it is clear from the advertising material that the consumer is directed to that there is no connection with the trade mark owner; in other words, that it is the site of a competitor of the trade mark owner.

There have also been suggestions that the court should have considered the issue of whether or not this was trade mark use, something that has clearly been a requirement for infringement in South Africa since the famous case of Verimark (Pty) Ltd v. BMW AG [2007] SCA 53 (RSA). In this case, the court held that Verimark's use of a BMW vehicle in a television advert for car polish did not infringe BMW's registration for its badge (despite the fact that the badge was clearly visible in the advert), because this was not trade mark use of the BMW trade mark but merely incidental use. In other words, Verimark's use of the BMW badge was not use intended to suggest a connection between the car polish and BMW. In Europe, this principle is expressed slightly differently, with the courts speaking of the fact that there is only an infringement if the function of the trade mark (generally its origin-indicating function) has been negatively affected or compromised.

However, in fairness to the court in the Car Find case, the issue of consumer confusion does appear to have been considered to some extent. In this regard, the court said this: "The direct access to portals, including that of [Car Find], in fact enhances the website and therefore the services offered by [Car Trader and others]. It moreover, implies that some link in the course of the trade exists between [Car Trade and others] and [Car Find]. [Car Trade and others] deny any connection with [Car Find] or that the website implies as much. No factual foundation for the latter denial exists and I am satisfied that the objective dealer, upon accessing the website, may well infer a link between [Car Trade and others] and [Car Find]."

A more considered decision on this interesting issue will be very welcome.

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.