Starting up a small business in South Africa can be a costly exercise and there are always additional costs that creep in that one is not always aware of when starting a new company. Apart from the necessary assets one needs to acquire when starting a business, the second most important aspect of your new business is the name, slogan and branding of your company as this will be used to distinguish your business from others.
One should generally wait until the company and the name of the company has been registered before making use of a graphic design company to design your logo and assist you with your slogan and general branding. Small business owners are then often faced with the question of trademark registration and if it is actually necessary to register their new companies trademark.
Unregistered trademarks in South Africa are governed by a common law which protects these trademarks. Companies who own unregistered trademarks that have built up a reputation after some time are able to defend their trademarks should another company or individual use a mark that is similar to their business at a later stage. Defending your unregistered trademark may be a costly exercise, as you will have to employ an attorney that is an expert in trademark law to assist you in this process.
If you are still wondering whether you should register your company’s trademark, the answer is probably yes. Registering your company’s trademark may incur an initial fee to your small business, but to defend an unregistered trademark may actually end up costing you more. Attorneys that specialise in trademark law will be able to assist you to apply for a registered trademark by doing the preliminary searches in the various trademark classes for you. It is not imperative to hire an expert in trademark law, but it will certainly make the process much easier and less time consuming if you had to do it yourself.
Once your trademark is registered, you can rest assured that your company’s identity and branding will be properly protected by the Trade Marks Act 194 of 1993 in South Africa.