According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), South Africa is currently grouped under middle-income countries, amongst other African countries such as Egypt and Algeria.  In their WIPO IP Facts and Figures 2019 study published in 2020, WIPO reported that there was a 46.8% increase in the number of trade mark filings between the years 2017 and 2018 in South Africa.  In the comparable countries of Egypt and Algeria, WIPO reported only 14% and 10% increases respectively.

The increase in trade mark filings in South Africa should be understood in conjunction with the WIPO statistics of between 2016 and 2017, which reported a decrease in the number of trade mark filings of 30.9%.  However, despite the prior decrease, the overall increase in the number of trade mark filings over the last four years in South Africa amounts to approximately 16%.

This increase is significant. Discussions regarding the cause and effect of this significant increase in filings can be as wide- or narrowminded as one desires. One should keep in mind that the South African trade mark system is a single-class filing system (i.e. separate applications are required for marks in separate classes) and as such, the increase may not be directly proportionate to the number of new marks filed.

Nevertheless, it is indisputable that the increase in the number of trade mark filings in South Africa is indicative of an active, developing economy. Moreover, it is evident that a strong reliance is placed on trade marks to protect brands, both old and new, in South Africa. For these reasons, it is advisable to ensure that before entering the South African market, one's marks are filed at the South African Trade Mark Office. 

Originally published 7 May, 2021

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.