Monday, 17 November 2008

Minister's fake goods speech - problem

Sapa and IOL report in an article entitled "Fake goods threaten 2010 - minister" that the the proliferation of counterfeit goods in South Africa poses a serious threat to the success of the 2010 Soccer World Cup according to Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. However, Mr Davies' speech, as reported, may be as dangerous as the problem itself. Quoting from the report:

"Speaking at a conference on intellectual property law in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng, he warned that the local counterfeiting industry was growing "at an alarming rate". He highlighted the need to recognise that "laxity in the enforcement of intellectual property laws could have considerable reputational consequences, particularly as we prepare ourselves for the hosting of the 2010 Fifa World Cup". So far so good - these tournaments make money from sponsors and sponsors rely on the ability of the tournament to safeguard their brand and their significant sponsorship fee. An inability to do so will have a knock-on effect on investment not only during the tournament but generally. Mr Davies blames the laxity of enforcement of trade mark laws implying that the underlying legislaton is not to blame. Fortunately laxity is a problem that can be addressed in the short term. The dangerous bit starts here:

"The decision to grant recognition for particular trademarks and names in connection with the 2010 World Cup was a product of "considerable negotiation" between the SA government and Fifa (the International Federation of Association Football)...." Firstly, it is not clear what it means (brand owners do not normally negotiate for rights and should not have to) and secondly, the logical conclusion of the Minister's statement is that existing legislation does not recognise particular trademarks (sic). This is a far reaching statement when it comes to promoting the country for investment where the cause of which (inadequate trademark recognition laws) cannot be changed overnight. Let's hope he was just badly quoted because the trade mark laws in RSA comply with international standards and he could have been referring to FIFA's request under the Merchandise Marks Act reported here, in which case there should be some control over how the statement is communicated.

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