Several highly valuable species are currently being poached, raided or abused, causing major concern to wildlife industries. Numerous anti-poaching strategies are being implemented, but it appears that the fight is being lost in many instances. Of greater concern is that the number of species being poached may be rapidly on the increase... one of these species is the trade mark.

A trade mark is a species of the genus "Intellectual Property Law" and is often identified by its code or abbreviation "TM" or ®. A trade mark is any sign capable of being represented graphically which is used in relation to goods or services for the purpose of distinguishing the goods or services from those of any other person or entity.

Trade Mark registrations protect brand names and logos used in relation to particular goods and services being offered under the trade mark. The wildlife industry has adopted a plethora of trade marks in the form of names and logos in respect of farms, lodges, wildlife breeders, genetic material, breeds and auction houses. But what's in a name and why protect it?

Trade marks and brands, more particularly the use thereof, provide one with a reputation and goodwill among existing and potential customers who associate a certain quality of goods and services with one's brand and business. Having one's trade mark and its associated reputation and goodwill being "poached" or abused by third parties, negatively affects one's rights to attract custom and do business and may even harm the name, reputation and ultimately the bottom line of any business.

The increased activity in the field of exotic wild breeding and auctioning has created a whole new platform for new trade marks and with that, the possibility of increased poaching, or abuse of trade marks. Record prices paid for well bred animals illustrate the potential value of a name associated with an animal and provides a sound example of how the breeding line of a particular animal should be protected. Protecting the name of an animal and its breeding line by way of a trade mark registration prevents third parties from using the animal's name or any other confusingly similar name in relation to such animals or even breeding services as a whole. In this way, the name can be reserved for the bloodline and associated genetic material for generations to come and may and may greatly increase the animal's value in this respect.

So what if your trade mark is being poached?

The Trade Mark Act provides recourse to a trade mark owner in the event of unauthorised use of one's trade mark. This includes, inter alia, the right to obtain an interdict restraining the unauthorised use of the trade mark in relation to the same or similar goods or services for which it is registered; and even damages that may have been suffered due to the infringement.

Applying for registration of your trade marks is an effective and affordable anti-poaching strategy and is highly recommended to all role players, not only as a conservation strategy of the trade mark species but also as a means of potentially adding great value to already valuable assets. Once this form of poaching is under control, valuable time and resources can be channelled into combating poaching of other species.

Originally published May 2016

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.