Trademarking your stage or band name might be a very good idea. To better understand the reasons why you might consider it, please read the first instalment in our series: Trademark your stage name. If you decided to take the plunge, the next step will be to search for trademarks that already exist to determine if the one you want to register is still available.
To start the search for trademarks in South Africa, go to the CIPC’s IP portal. Then hover over the Trade Marks tab to see Free Search and Apply for Trade Mark.
At this stage, it will either prompt you to Log in or Create Account. If you haven’t created an account yet, you can do so here. I won’t walk you through that as it is self-explanatory. Once you created an account and logged in, then we can start.
Trade Mark classes
I just want to give a quick lesson on trademark classes before you go searching. When you register a trademark, it has to be registered in a specific class (i.e. a group or category). This helps the registrar identify what type of products or services you want to use your trademark for. You cannot go gung-ho and register your trademark in all 45 classes (Bafana Bafana tried once and failed).
It is, therefore, possible to have two similar trademarks but in completely different categories. If you were to hypothetically produce an anti-rust spray and call it “Metallica”, it’s unlikely that others would think the band Metallica came up with the product – there would, therefore, in my opinion, not be any infringement. So, when searching and choosing your classes, make sure they are relevant to your product. Click here to get an idea of the type of products listed in each class. For our purposes, classes 9 and 41 are the relevant ones.
Search for trademarks
Let’s start with a trademark search. To do so, hover over the Trade Marks tab on the top left and then click on Free Search.
The search for trademarks function is not the most intuitive. You have to write the name of the item or brand you are looking for in the Verbal Mark field and then check the relevant class. The page will refresh, giving you the impression that it has searched, when in fact it hasn’t. You must click Search and you should see results. If you want to do another search, simply click Search Again.
For example, type “Plascon” into the Verbal Mark field and select Class 2 (see image below). Class 2 deals with paints, so all paint products (like Plascon) will be registered in this class. Click search and you will get a list of results. You can then click on the blue hyperlinks on the far-left column titled Application no to get more details on that particular trademark. If you do the same search but choose class 5 instead, you will not find as many trademarks. This is because class 5 deals with products unrelated to the Plascon-Paints series. *Hint, I do my searches, well some at least, with quotation marks on the outside of the words i.e. “Plascon”. This just refines the search a bit more, otherwise, the site might find a whole bunch of trademarks with the word Pla or con, etc.
So now that you know how to do a basic search, have a look to see whether the name you want is available. Focus your searches on classes 9 and 41.
In part 3, we get to the actual process of registering your trademark.
*All images and links provided are accurate at the time I wrote the article. I cannot guarantee that the CIPC won’t change its website from time to time.