A CIPC Company Name Search Does NOT Clear Your Brand and Trademark for Use

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A CIPC Company Name Search Does NOT Clear Your Brand and Trademark for Use

Does a company name give you rights to your brand?


Most people, even lawyers, get this wrong. 

A registered company name does not provide exclusivity to a name, nor necessarily the rights to actually use it. Only trademark rights can provide rights to a name.

Is there any value to searching the CIPC company register for similar names? To a limited degree, yes: it may alert you to others using a similar brand. However, remember that identical brand names can co-exist without problems if they are being used in relation to unrelated goods or services. So unless there is descriptive wording in the company name itself (for example XYZ ACCOUNTANTS PTY LTD) the company register does not actually show you what industry or goods or services the company is operating in.

Therefore, the only way to ensure that your chosen brand or company name is available to use and market, and that you can get exclusive rights to the name and stop others from using it, is with:

– (1) a search for existing trademarks on the South African Trademarks Register and
– (2) a search of Google, Social Media and the Marketplace for other unregistered trademark in use in South Africa.

1 Trademark Database Search

Search the South African Trade Marks Register for your brand name and make sure the brand – or something confusingly similar by appearance, sound or meaning – is not being used in relation to identical or similar goods or services.

You can do this on CIPC’s free trademark search – but the search is not very user friendly: you can only search one of the 45 trademark classes at a time, need some familiarity with the classification system, need to submit your South African ID to get a username and to wait a few days for the CIPC to grant access.

In the meantime you can also use our easy to use free BrandLaw trademark search – which lets you search for similar marks in all classes at the same time and it suggests the appropriate classes if you enter your goods or services. It also lets you search for trade marks by owner name, application number and similar marks.

2 Google, Domains, Social Media and Marketplace Search

Search Google in the South African Region and .co.za domains for the brand name being used in relation relation to identical or similar goods or services.

It also makes sense to have a look at Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms relevant to your goods or services to locate potentially identical or similar marks that are being used in relation to the same or similar goods or services as yours and in the same country.

Remember that a Google search is not enough. Trademarks can be registered and protected for a number of years without any use having been made. So it is important to search for these ‘hidden’ shadow marks that could emerge and force you to change your chosen brand name (which can be devastating to your business, cost a fortune to rebrand and cause you to loose your existing reputation).

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