Trading on Madiba’s name

2013-05-03 00:00

MORE than 90 Mandela-related trademarks have been registered in South Africa — creating a potential hurdle for family members who may want to exploit the family name.

The main holder of Mandela trademarks registered at the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission is the Nelson Mandela Foundation, records show.

The foundation has been amassing registered trademarks with South African intellectual property authorities since 1999, which give it the rights to various iterations of Mandela’s name, including Mandela, Nelson Mandela and Madiba.

It even owns the rights to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality, and to the name of the upmarket Nelson Mandela Square shopping centre in Sandton, Johannesburg.

The Mandela family, on the other hand, do not own any registered trademarks relating to the family name in South Africa, although online records show that the wine brand House of Mandela, which is marketed by Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe and granddaughter Tukwini, is registered in the European Union.

There is also a record of an abandoned trademark application with the United States trademark authorities for bartending equipment and clothing related to the House of Mandela brand. Both these applications were made by the company Makgatho Mandela Investment Holdings, of which Makaziwe is a director.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation’s 65 Mandela-related South African trademarks give it rights to trade on Mandela’s name in a wide range of merchandise and services, including clothing, jewellery, leatherware, stationery, books, financial services, retail, educational material and even scientific products.

The foundation also owns registered trademarks for an array of merchandise relating to the terms “Bikers for Mandela Day”, “Nelson Mandela Foundation — Living the Legacy”, “Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and Dialogue”, “Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture” and to two golf tournaments: the discontinued “Nelson Mandela Invitational” and the “Nelson Mandela Challenge”.

Other South African entities with registered Mandela trademarks are the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

The Mandela Foundation’s trademarks on the Mandela name could put it on a collision course with a company, Tinancier (Pty) Ltd, set up by Mandela’s former family attorney Ismail Ayob.

Ayob claimed last week that the company owned all the rights to Mandela’s name, following a contract Mandela signed in 2001.

But Herman Blignaut, a trademark attorney with Spoor and Fisher, said possessing a name did not necessarily give the owner the right to trade on that name, and that South African courts have ruled against people trading on their own name where that name had already become well-known.

“The name Mandela is known due to one person and even if a child or grandchild [of Nelson Mandela] were to use the Mandela name, they could run into difficulties with the existing registered trademarks.”

He said ultimately it would be the decision of the owner of the trademark whether or not to take legal action against anyone infringing the rights.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Sello Hatang told Media24 Investigations last week that the aim of the institution’s trademarks “could not be to prevent any member of the Mandela family from using his/her name for their own initiatives”.

He did not respond to a request for further clarification.

• investigations@media24.com

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