Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Tune in for live ANC v COPE name battle

It is very rare that action in a trade mark fight is broadcast blow-by-blow. That's why the much talked about political name battle between the ANC and COPE (South Africa's new breakaway party) is intriguingly good news for the RSA trade mark profession and the firms involved. The ANC have taken issue with the terms "Congress of the People" threatening urgent High Court action and COPE have fiercely resisted. Both parties have used their lawyers and the press to communicate their position (see below) and by strange co-incidence, the ANC has pitted Adams & Adams chairman Chris Job against Bouwers boss Deon Bouwer. For those who do not know the RSA legal profession, Adams & Adams is almost as dominant as the ANC and Bouwers is a young splinter firm from DM Kisch, not unlike COPE. For what it is worth, if this goes to Court my money is on the splinter groups this time...but make your own minds up:

Cope Refuses ANC's Demand for a Name Change

"The Congress of the People was a "seminal, historical event" in 1955 organised by the ANC and its congress alliance partners, which led to the adoption of the Freedom Charter, said ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus. A letter from the ANC stated: "We believe we enjoy common law [ed - rights] in and to the name Congress of the People. "The ANC is also concerned about the fact that "in many political circles, the ANC is commonly referred to as the Congress of the People". The Nguni translation of the ANC is "khongolese", which means congress. "The consequence of this is that there will be serious confusion," said Niehaus. The letter asked Cope for an undertaking in writing that it would not use the name or any similar names and that no promotional or advertising material bear the name. The ANC "requests delivery of all material in their possession for destruction". "If they do not abide by this we will be entitled to institute urgent high court proceedings," said Niehaus. Job said on both sides affidavits and answering affidavits had not been filed yet. He said the matter may eventually become moot."

"Job says the ANC has no problem with the use of the word congress, or the acronym, Cope, but that the phrase, Congress of the People, cannot be used according to this article."

According to The Star Motlanthe enters COPE fray

"When you look at the ANC's historical documents on their website there is no instance where they claim the name Congress of the People. "That is a historic event and is not the sole property of the ANC," said Bouwer. In a letter to the ANC on behalf of COPE, Bouwer questioned why the ANC wanted to go to court when the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was already engaged in examining COPE's application to register as a political party.

Chris Job, said COPE's refusal to accede to the ANC's demand made high court action "inevitable". "We will apply for an urgent interdict at the Pretoria High Court as early as next week," he said. We want to have a court hearing as soon as possible. We want the hearing to be heard before December 16. "We want to move urgently on this matter," Job said. The ANC would object to COPE's registration as a company and its applications to register its trademark and as a political party, he said.

Bouwer said this was premature, "because the IEC and the registrar of trademarks have not completed their processes". "The ANC should have waited to object to the IEC and the registrar of trademarks. Why did they have to go to court? "Although COPE has registered as a company with (the companies' register) Cipro, the ANC has a year in which they can still object to it. "The process to register a trademark takes up to two years and... the registrar of companies can still order COPE to use another name if a third party objects in the next 12 months," said Bouwer. He said the ANC should follow the rules and lodge its complaints with the IEC, and the registrars of companies and trademarks. "We are saying to the ANC: don't suppress us, but follow the rules. We have nothing against objections but this (squabble over the name) is not an urgent matter for the court. "I would be surprised if the court saw this matter as urgent, because the IEC and relevant bodies are dealing with the applications," Bouwer.

Deon Bouwer's letter can be located here

COPE Court Battle Looms Sibusiso Ngalwa and Gaye Davis

An SMS sent by former ANC Youth League leader and COPE organiser, Andile Nkuhlu, read: "Dear colleagues. This serves as information that the ANC has served papers on us to give an undertaking not to use Congress of the People in any form or they'll go to court on the 20th. Have told the lawyers to tell (them) to go to court since we will continue to use the name!"

"Jessie Duarte said the party took strong exception to the fact that the dissidents had decided to name themselves after the 1955 Congress of the People at Kliptown, Soweto - a campaign that was led by the ANC and which saw the adoption of the Freedom Charter. Duarte has accused Cope of trying to "steal" the legacy of the Freedom Charter, the document that forms the basis for the ANC's values and principles."

COPE has sent ANC into Panic Onkgopotse Tabane

"the ANC must explain why it is abusing the courts to oppose names that have not been registered; why it is blocking registration of domain names all over the place, including attempting to intimidate the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office officials to reveal names of people who are registering various aspects of the Cope identity. It would be interesting to understand why parallel rallies and events are being organised in an attempt to dislodge this "non-threat"."

Afro-IP's earlier post on the choice of SANC.

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