Government objects to French firm’s attempt to trademark ‘rooibos’

"The department of trade and industry together with the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, has raised its objection with the French Embassy in South Africa as well as with the European Commission Delegation in Pretoria. These engagements will be further intensified to seek an acceptable resolution to the matter," the department said in a statement on Thursday.

The Business Day reported earlier this month that the "rooibos industry is fighting to protect its intellectual property after a French company applied to register a number of trademarks incorporating the terms 'South African Rooibos' and 'Rooibos' last year.

The report added if the company was successful "it would own the exclusive rights to the names of any rooibos products sold in France, a key market in the European Union, which is the biggest export market for rooibos".

In a response, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies on Thursday said, "The [department] stands ready to defend South Africa's trade and intellectual property interests vigorously. However, the issues in this particular matter will require an urgent assessment of the legal options to strengthen protection of the Rooibos name in South Africa.

This is not the first time a foreign firm has attempted to capture the intellectual property associated with Rooibos. As in the 2005 case that took place in the United States, the [department] will support the local industry to protect our mutual trade and economic interests."

Staple in SA
"As all South Africans know, Rooibos tea is made from the leaves of a unique shrub, indigenous only to South Africa. In addition, a number of Rooibos products in South Africa are already protected by South Africa's domestic trademark legislation. The registration of such a trademark in France could have a significant negative impact on South Africa's exports of Rooibos products to France, and the [department] is co-operating with the local Rooibos industry to ensure that South Africa's trade interests are not unfairly compromised," the department said.

A staple tea in many homes in South Africa, the health benefits of rooibos, long part of South African cultural lore, are only beginning to be properly verified through rapidly growing scientific research, reported the Mail & Guardian last year.

The tea, which is closer to a herbal infusion known as a tisane, has been linked to the prevention of certain types of cancer as well as heart disease. It grows in hardy bushes amid the Cape’s uniquely diverse fynbos floral kingdom.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Stay at home, Cyril said. But what about the homeless?

In Tshwane, forcing homeless people off the street resulted in chaos and the abuse of a vulnerable population. In Durban, a smooth, well-planned operation fared far better

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders