The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has expressed grave concern on news that a French firm is looking to trademark ‘Rooibos’ in France.
The minister of trade and industry, Rob Davies, said “the dti 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 dti will support the local industry to protect our mutual trade and economic interests.”
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 dti is co-operating with the local Rooibos industry to ensure that South Africa’s trade interests are not unfairly compromised.
Consequently, the dti 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.