Thursday 5 August 2010


Gobbledy-gook or stadiumspeak?

In one of today’s IPKat postings (here), Jeremy Phillips mentions the dispute between the FBI and Wikipedia, over the use of the FBI seal. According to the post, US legislation provides that
‘Whoever possesses any insignia...or any colorable imitation thereof ... shall be fined ... or imprisoned ... or both’ and Jeremy queries whether uploading onto a server can be viewed as possession – also, what other IP rights the FBI has recorded.

If that is overreach, obviously the latest notice in terms of section 15(1) of the South African Merchandise Marks Act 1941 (home of the famous ambush marketing provisions) has not come to his attention. General Notice 704 of 2010, in Government Gazette 33374 of 12th July 2010, prohibits the use of ‘words, devices, logos, pictures and drawings’ of all the stadia built for the FIFA Soccer World Cup 2010 ‘which might cause confusion with any trade, business, profession or occupation or event or in connection with a trade mark, mark or trade description applied to goods, save where the use thereof is by, or [with]sic the authority of the relevant Metro/ Municipality in which the above stadiums are situated’. The notice continues as follows: ‘The prohibition is absolute or sic perpetual’.

I have been forced to quote these provisions as it is impossible to provide and sensible paraphrase. Apart from the technical mistakes – the prohibition is issued in terms of s15(1)(a) of the Act , which merely prohibits use of the national flag or former national flags, rather than in terms of section 15(1)(b); and this latter section prohibits use of a ‘mark, word, letter or figure in connection with any trade…’, the prohibition is breathtakingly wide.

Fortunately road signs, if erected, are usually done so with municipal authority. But what about maps, and postcards? What about tours of the Cape, or any other area – may one not show tourists the edifices built with taxpayer money?

If this is the legacy of the ambush marketing provisions that allowed FIFA to enjoy such a profitable tournament, I dread what is coming next.



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Nevashni Pillay
19 August 2010 at 10:09 delete for thought