A trademark distinguishes a products or services from those of other entities. A trademark is typically a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or a combination of these elements.
Trademarks are designated by the following symbols
- ™ (for an unregistered trade mark, that is, a mark used to promote or brand goods)
- ® (for a registered trademark)
How long is a trademark registered for?
Once registered, your trademark is protected for ten years and must be renewed (for a nominal amount) every ten years on an indefinite basis. The application to register a trademark is made by filing details of the trademark in respect of how it will be used, together with the necessary forms and revenue stamps, at the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro) in Pretoria.
It can take up to two years for a trademark registration to be finalised. The cost is R590 per class of trademark and R190 for a search of existing trademark.
- It is possible to register a trademark yourself, but you must complete a trademark search first. You can download all the necessary forms from the Cipro website.
- Complete form TM1.
- Submit a copy of your intended trademark.
- Two copies are kept by Cipro for office use and you get to keep the third one as proof of your application.
- Pay a registration fee upfront or on submitting the application form TM1.
- Once your application complies with all the formal requirements, you will be allocated an application date and number. All further communications with Cipro will carry that application number. Although it takes 18 months to register a trademark, you may start using it as soon as you have received your application number.
- If your trademark is accepted unconditionally, you have to advertise it in the Patent Journal, which is published monthly by the Government Printing Works (GPW).
- If any objection is received, the Registrar of Trademarks convenes a hearing between the applicant and objector(s).
- If no objections are received, a trademark registration certificate is issued.
DIY vs professional guidance
A lawyer’s knowledge and experience of the law of contract provides them with all the knowledge required to register a trademark quickly and efficiently. It is recommended that you seek professional advice. Go to the Legal Directory link on the Entrepreneur website to get in touch with a legal expert or business in your area.
What are trademark classes?
Trademarks are registered in 45 different classes, covering all goods and services. You will have to assign a class to your trademark before a search can take place. Each class in the trademark’s register relates to a general type of product or service. For example, musical instrument falls into class 15, whilst clothing falls into class 25.
Should I register locally, internationally or both?
It is very wise to register your trademark in the countries where your business is located or where you plan to conduct business. South African trademark registration only covers the Republic of South Africa. Remember, a South African trademark will not provide protection in any of South Africa’s neighbouring states, or any other country, and a separate application must be filed in each of these countries.
Applications for registration in foreign countries can be based on a South African trademark application. Such applications are made in terms of the International Convention of Paris, as in the case of patents. If you do wish to register globally, it would be advisable to make use of a patent attorney to take care of the process.