Why Property Developers Should Consider Registering A Trade Mark

It is no surprise that the past several years have shown a significant surge in residential estate developments throughout South Africa. This remarkable growth shows a clear demand for such developments and developers are challenged to expand their developments to include various appealing lifestyle amenities with the promise of affordable or luxury comfortable living.

Each development is distinguished by a unique name bearing its own distinct identity creating a residential brand for the occupants. The selection of names for these estates often set the tone and is probably the most important component when it comes to marketing strategies. The name can add to the inherent exclusionary offers by communicating notions of security or lifestyle. Estates such as Val de Vie have become so widely recognised that the name itself is associated with the notion of status and luxury. The name, therefore, becomes a marketable item for profit.

Developers should consider naming their developments in such a way as to maximize profitability. The first and arguably the most important step is to ensure that the desired name of the development is clearly distinguishable, unique and free from association pitfalls. When assessing the name for registration with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), it’s important to note that the CIPC only considers your desired name against other identical or confusingly similar names that are contained on the company names register (and not those that are contained on the trade marks register). In other words, your desired name may be accepted by the CIPC but there’s still a chance that your name and accompanying slogan or logo might infringe upon another’s trade mark rights.

Trade mark protection is afforded to the name, slogan or logo (marks) of a brand which distinguish its goods or services from that of another. It is, therefore, highly advisable to conduct a trade mark availability search on your desired marks as part of due diligence.

Once the developer is satisfied that the desired name and marks are acceptable and available for use, it is important to conclude legal ownership by further registering your marks with the South African Trade mark Office. Not only does trade mark registration provide you with exclusive usage rights of your marks but further adds significant value to your development as the protection thereof can be monetised and can increase in value as the development’s social distinction and popularity grows.

These exclusive rights prevent others from creating confusion or benefitting from your chosen marks through implied endorsements or affiliation with your development. Developers are further confidently able to sell or license these marks to others in order to expand their project or generate additional revenue.

The costs of having your marks registered are nominal and can be renewed indefinitely to maintain their value and enforceability. Registration further provides the necessary legal grounds to prevent others from unauthorised use or misleading marketing. Thereby safeguarding the development’s reputation and identity.

Unregistered marks may also lead to substantial legal expenses later which can be disruptive and time-consuming. In these circumstances, prevention is worth far more than a cure.

By registering the development’s identity as a trade mark, developers are able to maximise the success of their real estate project by gaining legal protection, brand recognition and commercial advantages from their allocated marks. Engaging with an intellectual property professional can help property developers navigate the trade mark process to ensure that registration is diligently and effectively followed.

For further trade mark assistance or advice please contact the DKVG trade mark team on trademarks@dkvg.co.za or call 021 914 40 20.   

By Anika Alberts