When is asked to think of a famous brand they are likely to answer quickly with names such as Coca-Cola, Nike and Virgin. However, the name Nelson Mandela is not likely to feature at all. The reason for this is not that Nelson Mandela is not “famous” or well-known, but rather because people have not been educated to understand that Nelson Mandela is in fact a brand. This is why it is difficult but not impossible to protect his name as a “brand”. The brand “Nelson Mandela” is of course much more than just his name. It includes every association with him, including his legacy.
So, how does one go about protecting the value of his brand?
Quite simply, its value is protected in the same way that one would protect any other brand – through trade mark registration, copyright, design and patent laws, in addition to rights in personality.
1. Trade mark protection could be sought for the word marks “NELSON MANDELA”, nicknames such as “MADIBA” and “TATA”, associations such as “46664”as well as his signature and possibly a portrait image of Nelson Mandela. Some difficulties can arise because he is so famous so it is important that the names are controlled as trade marks. This appears to have been achieved through licence agreements between the Trustees of the Nelson Mandela Trust and organisations such as the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the 46664 Organisation.
2. The historical speeches that Nelson Mandela has delivered to the public, the literary works he has authored, the photographs of him and various artworks depicting him are all protected by copyright. To the extent possible, he should try to obtain ownership of such copyright.
3. Contrary to what one might think, the law of designs is not completely irrelevant to the Nelson Mandela brand. The new and aesthetic designs of paraphernalia (such as key-rings, t-shits, caps, shoes and accessories) bearing the Nelson Mandela brand may be protectable by design registration.
4. From a patent perspective, while the jury’s still out on the patentability of a human being and their DNA, one wonders whether the idea of cloning a person as remarkable and unique as Nelson Mandela might tip the balance in favour of the protagonists.
The most important thing to remember when building a personal brand that you wish to protect is the necessity to educate the public that is in fact a brand. Your personal brand is an asset and if protected correctly, it can grow to be a valuable one