What is a trademark?

A trademark is any sign, including a device, name, signature, word, letter, number, shape, pattern, colour, container for goods, or any combination of these which distinguishes your goods or services from your competitors.

Your trademark must, when you apply for registration, be able to clearly distinguish your goods or services from your competitors’, or must be distinguished by reason of having used it before.

Why does a business need trademarks?

A trademark distinguishes your goods or services from your competitors’ and carries with it a large portion of the goodwill of your business. This is why it is important for a business to protect its trademarks.

What if my trademark falls into more than one class?

According to the Trade Marks Act, you’ll be required to complete a separate trademark application under each class of goods or services.

Who can register a trademark?

Only a trademark owner can register it in South Africa. They must have a business address in South Africa. If the owner is represented by a third party with an address in South Africa, the representative must be an admitted attorney in South Africa.

When can you NOT register a trademark?

There are a number of reasons why the CIPC may refuse to register a trademark, including (but not limited to) if:

  • the mark is not capable of distinguishing the goods or services of the applicant from those of any other person;
  • the mark consists exclusively of a sign or indication which may serve, in trade, to designate the kind, quality, quantity, intended purpose, value, geographical origin or other characteristics of the goods or services, or the mode or time of production of the goods or of rendering the services;
  • the applicant has no legitimate claim to the mark or has no legitimate intention to use it;
  • the mark consists exclusively of the shape, configuration, colour or pattern of goods where such shape, configuration, colour or pattern is necessary to obtain a specific technical result, or results from the nature of the goods themselves;
  • the mark consists of, imitates or contains the South African flag, armorial bearings, state emblems or official signs;
  • the mark consists of, imitates or contains the flag, armorial bearings or any other emblem of any international organisation which is a member of a convention of which South Africa is a member in relation to the registration and protection of trademarks;
  • a mark contains any word, letter or device indicating State patronage;
  • a mark consists of a container for goods or the shape, configuration, colour or pattern of goods, where the registration of such a mark is likely to limit the development of any art or industry;
  • a mark is inherently deceptive or the use of which would be likely to deceive or cause confusion, be contrary to law or be likely to cause offence to any class of persons;
  • a mark is identical to a registered trademark;
  • a mark is so similar to a registered trademark that it would be likely to deceive or cause confusion.
Should a trademark be registered?

Yes, each trade mark needs a separate application, as well as one mark that can distinguish goods and services which fall into different trademark classes.

For example, when Coca Cola registered its trademarks in South Africa, it would have had to register the word Coca Cola, the logo, slogans, and shapes. Each registration would have been applied for under separate applications.

What are trademark classes?

Each trade mark must distinguish the goods and services which you provide to your customers. The Trade Marks Act sets out 45 classes of goods and services, and requires that trademark registrations must specify the class within which the goods or services fall.

How do you get a trademark?

You get a trademark by registering it or using it. Getting a trademark by use happens if you’ve used your trademark enough that it now identifies your goods or services as being yours.


Can I use my trademark before it is registered?

You can start using your trademark after you have a filing receipt and number from the CIPC. This is only if no other persons have registered the same or similar trademark, or have been using the same or similar trademark for some time.

How is a trademark registered?
  • First we must search the CIPC database to make sure that there are no trademarks similar to yours. This search is generally done within a period of 15 and 20 business days. Even if the search is positive, this doesn’t mean that the mark will be registered successfully.
  • Secondly, an application is lodged with the Registrar of Trademarks. They will then examine the application and determine whether it is compliant with the Trademarks Act or not.
  • Third, the Registrar of Trademarks issues a certificate of registration. This is valid for a period of 10 years, and the issuing of the certificate takes approximately one year. PS: you can start using your trademark before the certificate is issued.


Trademark Advanced aims to make trademark registrations easy, fast and affordable. Driven by experienced legal professionals specialising in trademark and IP law, and supported by the latest technology, Trademark Advanced is the simplest trademark registration solution.

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