Protecting your brand in South Africa with the help of Customs
Most brand owners go through the process of registering their trade mark to obtain proof that they own the brand and importantly to stop others from using it without permission.
The protection of your brand can also take place through copyright; however, it is always recommended to apply for a trade mark registration so that you have proof that you own the brand. Copyright on the other hand, subsists automatically and often cannot be registered. The good news is that there is another way to protect your brand from counterfeiting.
Once your trade mark is registered or your copyright subsists some brand owners are unaware that you can register your brand with Customs by means of a Customs Application.
The Customs Application process is extremely simple and takes your IP attorney approximately one week to prosecute to registration, after which your registration will be valid and in force for two years.
The beauty of the Customs Application is that, once registered, it will empower Customs on all border posts and ports of entry to search for and detain suspected counterfeit goods entering South Africa and to take criminal and civil action against the importer via your IP attorney.
Once you are aware of a copycat of your brand in the market place it is difficult to know how to proceed to protect yourself The advantage the Customs Application gives you is that they are able to stop these goods from entering the country in totality so that there is no damage caused to your business by the copycat in the market
However, if the goods are in the market already, do not lose hope. It is possible to have these goods removed from the market by means of a complaint lodged by your IP attorney with either Customs or the Police requesting them to apply for a search and seizure warrant to have the goods removed from the market. This process is swift and the advantage of anti-counterfeiting actions in South Africa, as opposed to trade mark infringement proceedings, is that the goods are removed from the possession of the infringer before the court proceedings start. This then prohibits the infringer from trading with immediate effect, as opposed to waiting for years to receive a judgment in your favour while the infringer still trades
It is highly recommended that your IP attorney is approached at the creation of your brand to register your trade mark on your behalf and register your brand (either new or existing) with Customs by means of a Customs Application.