You've heard about Crypto, Blockchain technology, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), and Web3.0 You became obsessed with it. Bought into it. People are making money left, right and centre and you want a piece of that ‘consensus' pie!

But, given the novelty of these new types of technology – and ‘wolves' lurking around every corner just waiting to pounce and steal your new business idea – how would you go about protecting your brand and its product and service offerings?

One solution is by way of trademark registration. In South Africa, trademarks are divided into 45 distinctive classes for goods and services, but, since these technologies are new on the block, legislation and policies have yet to fully accommodate them. It is also important to note that your brand name and logo each constitute a separate protectable trademark.

So, in which class would you file trademarks to protect your technologies? 

Well, that depends entirely on the types of products and services provided by your business. 

For example – A new business that creates NFT projects and sells them online would require a TM registration in Class 9. Even though South Africa has not formally included NFTs within the ambit of Class 9, it has been so incorporated in other jurisdictions, and given the words and description of Class 9, it is submitted that NFTs would also fall under the ambit of Class 9. 

If your business also provides and caters for, financial transactions such as a crypto trading service and platform, and an unauthorised third party uses your brand and copies those services, you will not enjoy trademark protection by virtue of Class 9 since you failed to register in Class 36, which relates to services related to banking and other financial transactions. 

And, if your brand provides online crypto games, none of the aforementioned trademark registrations will pass muster, since you failed to file in Class 42 which includes services related to providing temporary use of non-downloadable software applications accessible via a website.

The three examples above show that there are many complexities when filing trademarks for these novel technologies and, as such, it is advisable to approach an experienced intellectual property attorney, specialising in trademark law, to guide you along the way. 

Rest assured, this will save you the heartache of filing a trademark and avoid the risk of your business being so inadequately protected that one of the web3.0 wolves could rob you of your idea.

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.