Rooibos IP innovation showcased at world congress

SA Rooibos Council

Cape Town - The extensive trademarks and patents protecting two of South Africa’s unique botanical treasures, namely Rooibos and Honeybush, have caught the attention of the international community and led to Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba being invited to deliver a keynote address at the 56th general assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo).

It’s the first time that SA has been asked to present in respect of trademarks, patents and IP innovation at this conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ernest du Toit, a director of the SA Rooibos Council and CEO of the Annique range of Rooibos teas, skincare and health products, was approached by the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), which functions under the auspices of the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), to present information on the Annique Rooibos health and beauty product range and on the Audacia Rooibos and Honeybush-wooded wines, owned and developed by Trevor Strydom.

Du Toit says he is honoured to participate in the symposium, which will specifically look at how patented and trademarked technologies remain critical to ensuring long-term economic growth for both developed and developing nations.

“Rooibos and Honeybush were specifically singled out as SA treasures since they are both endemic to SA and are among the most widely commercially cultivated botanical species originating in South Africa with more than 300 trademarks and 20 patents to their names,” says Du Toit.

Red Dawn IP Holdings – owned by Audacia Wines and KWV – has developed a method of preserving alcoholic beverages using indigenous Rooibos and Honeybush wood-chips, instead of currently accepted sulphite preservatives, which has also intrigued the international IP community.

The innovation by the Stellenbosch-based company could be a potential game changer in the alcoholic beverage industry, given that Rooibos and Honeybush toasted wood-chips not only impart unique and highly distinctive flavours to a wide range of beverage types, including wine, beer and cider, but also release antioxidants which helps to preserve these beverages, eliminating the use of synthetic preservatives, such as sulphites.
Audacia has already created a series of “no sulphites or preservatives added” wines, as well as low calorie wines, using this breakthrough technology.

Strydom, director of Red Dawn IP Holdings, who has lodged patent applications in 83 jurisdictions worldwide, for the exclusive use by South African alcoholic beverage producers, to create wine, beer and cider, using indigenous Rooibos and Honeybush materials in varying forms, says safeguarding these local resources is crucial to developing jobs and businesses, and to sustain a vibrant economy.

“Patent protection and trademark registration of our products is particularly significant given that the European Union finally recognised both Rooibos and Honeybush as Geographic Indicators (GI), in 2014. This means that South Africa and its local manufacturers now have exclusive ownership of Rooibos and Honeybush trademarks and IP, and that these names will only be applicable to products that come from South Africa, which are officially approved by the dti, guaranteeing quality control,” says Strydom.

The dti has also since then declared Rooibos and Honeybush as prohibited marks under South Africa’s Merchandise Marks Act, making unauthorised use a criminal offence. Traditional Knowledge legislation, which is in line with the Nagoya Protocol, is also currently being promulgated in South Africa.

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