What is a trademark?

The world of trademark law is a sea of grey areas, with few people that really know what trademarks are all about. Get to know this mystical industry by taking a look at the trademark information we’ve sourced for you below:

Benefits of registering trademarks

If you thought that registering a trademark will only serve to protect your intellectual property from copycats, then you’ve only heard half of the good news! The benefits of trademark registration in South Africa include:


Trademarks that are registered become the property of the company or person registering them. Registration of a trademark is proof of ownership


Since a trademark is an asset that you own, you’re also able to sell the trademark for whatever reason and at a price you can determine.


If you so wish, you can license the use of a trademark (as seen in franchising).

A registered trademark is applicable across South Africa. Regardless of where you are based, and how far away a copycat is, you retain sole rights to the trademark.


The improper use of a registered trademark is a criminal offense, but this is not the same with regards to unregistered trademarks.

History of trademarks

The first piece of trademark legislation was passed by King Henry III back in 1266, when it was made law that all bakers use a distinctive mark on their loaves of bread.

Some trademarks have been around for a very long time, like Stella Artois who claims to have been using their trademark since 1366. But Roman Empire blacksmiths, who made swords for the legions, are said to have been the first users of trademarks.

Defining a trademark

A trademark can be defined as a word, slogan, logo, image, shape or other defining feature that identifies a brand and distinguishes it from its competitors. Once the brand element has been registered as a trademark, no other entity is allowed to use it, and doing so can result in legal action being taken against the copycat.

It is important to remember that patents and trademarks aren’t the same. While a patent only lasts for a set amount of time, a trademark never ends. But a trademark that is not officially registered and granted by the CIPC has no protection from competitors.

Types of trademarks

There are three types of trademarks that can be registered:

™ – Using this symbol (trademark) after a logo, word or slogan alerts competitors that the brand has claimed this symbol or phrase as theirs, even if they haven’t formally applied for it.

® – Only trademarks that have been officially recognised by the CIPC may use the ® symbol, which stands for registered trademark.

℠ – Companies that sell services instead of products have the option to use a service mark logo, but most brands just use the ™ instead. 


Trademark examples

Some interesting things have been trademarked in the past, like specific patterns on clothing or the makeup of shoe soles. There are four main trademark varieties registered today:

  • Logos: Microsoft’s window logo, Spar’s green pine tree, McDonald’s “Golden Arches”
  • Brands: Aquafresh, Pick n Pay, Netflix, Nescafe
  • Slogans: “Spur – People with a taste for life”, “LG – life’s good”

Shapes:  Coke bottle shape, KONG pet chew toy



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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