While South Africa is still lacking a clear national strategy on combating counterfeit goods infringing local intellectual property, it seems that companies are intensifying efforts to register their trademarks and other intellectual property.
Trademark registration had risen to 31 800 for the financial year ending March 31, Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro) CEO Keith Sendwe said on Thursday at a World Intellectual Property Day exhibition in Pretoria.
This compares with about 27 000 trademarks registered for the financial year ending March 2006 and an average of around 24 000 trademark registrations in previous years.
Sendwe attributed the upswing in trademark registrations to government’s Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa and the 2010 soccer World Cup drawing closer.
Cipro COO Desmond Marumo added that government was taking steps to ensure the protection of the intellectual property rights of Fifa, the international governing body of soccer, during the 2010 soccer World Cup tournament.
He reported that the State was fast-tracking the registration of 40 trademarks that Fifa requested protection for.
But South Africa was still faced with a challenge of tackling counterfeiting intellectual property on a national level, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said.
He quoted the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI’s) latest data that showed that an “alarming” loss of revenue of R540-million between April 1, 2005, and March 31, 2006, owing to counterfeited goods floating around in the South African market.
The same study also revealed that, between 2003 and 2005, loss of revenue owing to fake goods was running into R2-billion.
Fighting counterfeiting was not only a matter of law enforcement by the South African Police Services and the National Prosecuting Authority, he noted, adding that it was also dependent on the consciousness of ordinary South Africans.
“We must put more effort into educating and creating awareness in order to sensitise all South African as consumers about the danger of buying and dealing with counterfeits and the impact of counterfeit goods on economic growth and the creation of new employment opportunities,” Davies said.
He added that a lack of respect for intellectual property rights was undermining the economy and intellect, leading to a retarding of creativity.
Mandla Mnyatheli, chief director of the Office of Company and Intellectual Property Enforcement (OCIPE), said that counterfeited electric goods were the most common to penetrate the local market, but added that government has seen the growth of fake goods in various sectors, particularly in medicine.
The theme for this year’s World Intellectual Property Day is “Encouraging Creativity”, promoting creativity, sensitising in intellectual property and the holders of such rights on the importance of protecting their property.
Cipro is mandated to promote, advise on and register intellectual property, which is protected under the Counterfeit Goods Act of 1997, in South Africa. The OCIPE, within the Consumer and Company Regulating Office of the DTI, enforces, monitors, educates and creates awareness on intellectual property.