Smit & Van Wyk Patents, Trademarks & Copyright

South Africa Trade Marks

Trade Mark Registration in South Africa

South Africa trade marks are valid for 10 years from the filing date and are renewable every 10 years thereafter. In South African trade mark law first-to-use is superior to first-to-file. However, South Africa trade marks that have been registered are easier to enforce than their common law equivalent. Generally speaking, a trademark is a name, signature, word, letter, numeral, shape, configuration, pattern, ornamentation, colour or container for goods or any combination thereof that is used to distinguish goods or services from those of competitors and others in the marketplace. A trade mark may also be referred to as a “brand”. Regardless of what it is called, a trade mark is the “striking feature” that gives your business or product/service it’s unique identity and makes it stand out amongst competitors.

  • Foreign applicants are compelled to use a locally-based trademark agent.
  • A Power of Attorney must be filed in support of the application.
  • Convention applications deadline for filing is six months from the priority date.
  • South Africa follows a single-class filing system. 
  • The prosecution process includes a formal and substantive examination, as well as an examination of distinctiveness. 
  • Three-month opposition period from the date of publication (extendable for further periods for three-months).
  • The processing time from first filing to registration is 18 – 24 months.

Categories of Trade Marks:

  • Goods and Services
  • Certification Marks
  • Collective Marks

Trade Mark Duration / Renewals:

A South African registered trade mark can be protected for an unlimited period of time, provided it is renewed every 10 years upon payment of a renewal fee. A South African trade mark can only be protected under the Trade Marks Act, 1993 (Act 194 of 1993) if it is registered.

Trade Mark Filing Requirements

  • Simply signed Power of Attorney
  • Details of the Applicant (full names, physical address, nationality / country of incorporation)
  • Representation of the trademark(s)
  • List of goods and / or services
  • Certified copy of priority document (if applicable)

Trade Mark Classes

Nice Classification

South Africa follows a single-class filing system. The most current edition of the Nice Classification of Goods and Services is followed. The Nice Classification, established by the Nice Agreement, is an international classification for the registration of marks. A new edition is published every 5 years and a new version of each edition is published annually.

International and Regional Systems

Paris Convention

South Africa is a member of the Paris Convention where each contracting state must grant the same IP protection to nationals of other contracting states, and provides for the right of priority in the case of patents, trademarks and designs. The Paris Convention is an international agreement which helps creators ensure that their intellectual property is protected in other countries. It applies to IP in the widest sense as it covers patents, trademarks and industrial designs to name a few.


The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights is an international legal agreement between all the member nations of the World Trade Organization.

Madrid Protocol

South Africa is not a member of the Madrid Agreement or of the Madrid Protocol. However, it is anticipated that South Africa will accede to the Madrid Protocol in the near future. The Madrid Protocol is an international treaty designed to simplify the international trademark registration process. Using this process, registrants are able to complete a single application, in their home language, that can then be applied to over 90 member countries.

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Patents, Designs and Trademarks in Africa

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Smit & Van Wyk provides a full range of Intellectual Property legal services in all African countries where protection is available. We can provide information on the filing requirements in each of the African countries and can also offer information on the various regional IP organisations such as ARIPO, OAPI and the Madrid protocol. We work with a network of trusted and knowledgeable agents to develop the best possible solution to each of our clients’ needs for trademarks, designs and patents in Africa.