Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Swiss based firm attempts to monopolise biltong

Swiss based lawyer Andre Myburgh has sent through a fascinating attempt by a Swiss firm to lay claim to trade mark rights over biltong, a distinctly African snack. He tells the story below and leaves with a call for someone to take responsibility for a watching brief over indigenous names.


"In the latest attempt to monopolise the name of an indigenous South African product, Swiss firm Catora AG has registered BILTONG as a trade mark and advertises “BILTONG ® LOW FAT HIGH IN PROTEIN”.  

Thorny issues in Switzerland
For 154 Swiss Francs (about 1 350 South African Rand), you can buy 1 kg of the finest Swiss-made “Biltong®” from the Grisons region.  The writer can tell you that dried meat from this region, known as Bündnerfleisch, is not to be scoffed at!  For a more modest sum of 78 Francs (about 680 Rands), you can buy one kilo of imported South African biltong.  Sorry – “Biltong®”, according to the website.  The South AfricanBiltong® is not in stock at the time of writing, so those not able to afford the fine Grisons Biltong® will have to make do with British Biltong®.

It is universally accepted that the “R-in-a-circle” symbol ® can only be used to indicate a registered trade mark.  This is also so in Switzerland  as stated in the Registry’s website at here.  So how can Catora AG claim registered trade mark rights to the word “biltong”, which, for the record, is defined in the Collins English Dictionary as “strips of meat dried and cured in the sun”?

Catora AG does have a registered trade mark for the word mark BILTONG.  It was entered on the register on 12 March 2012 under no. 626853, and was not opposed.  However, interestingly, it was registered in class 43 in respect of “services for the accommodation of guests.”  Interestingly, because no board & lodging isadvertised under the registered mark BILTONG® trade mark on the Catora website, and the main object ofCatora AG does not mention that the company exists to cater for the accommodation of guests.

Questions of geographic indications aside, a case like this should be easily dispensed with.  In Switzerland, there is a raft of industry associations which look out for marks claiming unwarranted claims about products being Swiss.  For example, I am sure that many of the South African trade mark firms on Afro Leo have at least once encountered a threatened opposition by Swiss industry association Chocosuisse against an application for a mark containing the word “Swiss” in class 30 covering chocolate.

But in South Africa, the question always seems to be who is responsible for watching over South African indigenous names internationally.  Is there aindustry association which promotes export of South African biltong or other agricultural produce?  Or, considering itsrecent enthusiasm to protect geographic indications in legislation, is the Department of Trade & Industry the appropriate body to serve as a watchdog?  

At the end of the day, a country cannot simply rely on legislation and policy to protect its indigenous names abroad – there must be a process under which someone, somewhere, will take up the cudgels and actively take steps to do so."

2 comments:

Charles said...

Well these Swiss should be careful about using such a mark next door in the EU. Why? Biltong is of course from sunny Belgium:

Trade mark name : BILTONG
Trade mark No : 000473652
Trade mark basis: CTM
Date of receipt : 26/02/1997
Filing date: 26/02/1997
Date of registration: 11/10/2000
Expiry Date: 26/02/2017
Nice Classification: 29, 30, 42 (Nice classification)
Trade mark: Individual
Type of mark: Word
Acquired distinctiveness: No
Applicant’s reference: 11845-EU-W NB/co
Status of trade mark: Registered

Owner:Joseph PUT
ID No: 23698
Natural or legal person: Physical person
Address: Sluisstraat 65
Post code: 3590
Town: DIEPENBEEK
Country: BELGIUM
Correspondence address: Joseph PUT Sluisstraat 65 B-3590 DIEPENBEEK BELGICA

Representative: BUREAU M.F.J. BOCKSTAEL NV
ID No: 10103
Type: 4 - Association
Correspondence address: BUREAU M.F.J. BOCKSTAEL NV Arenbergstraat 13 B-2000 Antwerpen BÉLGICA
Telephone: 00 32-32250060
E-mail: Send e-mail patents@bockstael.be

Opposition
No entry for application number: 000473652.

That mark is in the apparently relevant classes of 29 and 30.

While we chew on the above, can anybody enlighten us about:

THE AERATION OF BILTONG
Inventor(s): SCHNEIDERMAN D +
Applicant(s): SCHNEIDERMAN D +
Classification: - international: A47J43/00; F24F3/00; (IPC1-7): A47J43/00; F24F3/00
Application number: ZA19780001244 19780303
Priority number(s): ZA19780001244 19780303

Now, is that a sort of fizzy biltong?

André said...

Charles, OHIM is one up on Meneer Put. The class 29 specification of his registration only claims products "not containing meat, fish, poultry, game, meat extracts, or preserves of meat, fish, poultry or game"!
But the problem remains ...