A comparative legal study of the dilution of registered trade marks in selected jurisdictions to further the development of the remedy in South African law

Van der Walt, Elizabeth Margaretha (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2005-12)

Thesis (LLD)--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Trade marks are among the most valuable commodities of the modern business world. Adequate protection for trade marks to prevent the misappropriation of their incredible marketing power is therefore important. The aim of this dissertation is to make recommendations regarding the further development of existing South African law regarding the protection of registered trade marks against dilution, particularly by the courts. Current statutory protection is examined and compared with trade-mark law in the United States and the European Union. Although the concept of dilution originated in Germany, most of its development took place in the United States, starting in 1927 with an article by Frank Schechter. Dilution occurs when the awareness that a specific mark signifies a single product from a single source changes to an unmistakable awareness that the same mark signifies various things from various sources. The primary theories as to how dilution occurs are blurring and tarnishment. Although the dilution concept is widely recognised, there is still a debate amongst legal scholars on whether trade marks deserve protection against dilution. The extent of protection that the law gives to trade marks largely depends on the socioeconomic functions that a trade mark is perceived to fulfil. The original source or origin function is protected by the traditional infringement provisions. The identification or distinguishing function, quality function and advertising function subsequently gained recognition. The advertising function is statutorily recognised in various jurisdictions, which prevents trade-mark dilution. Statutory recognition of dilution in the United States first occurred in State law from 1947 onwards. Protection is generally given to distinctive or strong trade marks where a similar mark is used on dissimilar goods in the absence of confusion in such a way that there is a likelihood that the reputation of the senior mark will be injured. The parameters of the concept were developed and refined mainly through case law. Federal protection against dilution was only introduced in 1995. The new Act, although widely welcomed, also brought some unpredictability and interpretation problems. The first statutory dilution protection for trade marks in Europe is found in the Uniform Benelux Trade Marks Act. In 1989 the European Union adopted the Trademark Directive, with the aim of harmonising the legal protection afforded to trade marks. Its "dilution" provisions were incorporated into the United Kingdom's Trade Marks Act of 1994. The sometimes conflicting interpretations of these provisions by the English courts and the Court of Justice of the European Communities are discussed. The South African Act shows a substantial degree of harmony with legislation in the United Kingdom and other European countries. Aspects of the wording of the dilution provisions are however open to interpretation by the courts. Until the end of 2003 there was only one major trade-mark dilution case decided by a South African court, namely SAR v Laugh It OjJPromotions, which is discussed in detail. The dissertation concludes with recommendations to aid South African courts in the future interpretation and application of the dilution provisions. Amendments to the legislation are also proposed to promote greater clarity.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Handelsmerke is van die waardevolste kommoditeite van die moderne besigheidswêreld. Voldoende beskerming om die uitbuiting van handelsmerke se ongelooflike bemarkingskrag te verhoed, is daarom belangrik. Die oogmerk van die proefskrif is om aanbevelings te maak vir die verdure ontwikkeling van bestaande Suid-Afrikaanse reg oor die beskerming van geregistreerde handelsmerke teen verwatering, veral deur die howe. Die bestaande statutêre beskerming word ondersoek en vergelyk met die reg op handelsmerke in the Verenigde State en die Europese Unie. Alhoewel die verwateringskonsep sy oorsprong in Duitsland het, is die konsep hoofsaaklik in die Verenigde State ontwikkel, beginnende in 1927 met 'n artikel deur Frank Schechter. Verwatering vind plaas wanneer die bewustheid dat 'n spesifieke merk 'n enkele produk vanuit 'n enkele bron aandui verander na 'n onmiskenbare bewustheid dat dieselfde merk verskillende dinge vanuit verskillende bronne aandui. Die primêre verskyningsvorme van verwatering is vertroebeling en besoedeling. Alhoewel die verwateringskonsep wye erkenning geniet, is daar steeds 'n debat onder regsgeleerdes oor die verdienstelikheid van die beskerming teen verwatering. Die mate van beskerming wat die reg aan handelsmerke verleen, hang grootliks af van wat gesien word as die sosio-ekonomiese funksies van 'n handelsmerk. Die aanvanklike oorsprongsfunksie word beskerm deur die tradisionele bepalings rakende inbreukmaking. Die identifiserings- of onderskeidingsfunksie, die kwaliteitsfunksie en die reklamefunksie het later erkenning gekry. Die reklamefunksie word in verskillende jursidiksies statutêr erken, wat die verwatering van handelsmerke verhoed. In die Verenigde State het die eerste statutêre erkenning vir verwatering sedert 1947 in die wetgewing van State plaasgevind. Beskerming is normaalweg gegee aan sterk handelsmerke of handelsmerke wat kan onderskei in gevalle waar 'n soortgelyke merk gebruik is op ongelyksoortige goedere in die afwesigheid van verwarring op so 'n wyse dat die waarskynlikheid bestaan dat die reputasie van die senior merk aangetas kan word. Die maatstawwe van die konsep is hoofsaaklik ontwikkel en verfyn in hofsake. Federale beskerming teen verwatering is eers in 1995 ingestel. Alhoewel dié nuwe wetgewing wyd verwelkom is, het dit ook onvoorspelbaarheid en interpretasieproblerne voortgebring. Die "Uniform Benelux Trade Marks Act" het die eerste statutêre beskerming teen die verwatering van handelsmerke in Europa gebied. Die "Trademark Directive" is in 1989 deur die Europese Unie aanvaar met die doelom die wetlike beskerming van handelsmerke the harmonieer. Die "verwaterings"bepalings is geïnkorporeer in die Verenigde Koninkryk se "Trade Marks Act" van 1994. Soms botsende interpretasies hiervan is deur die Engelse howe en die Geregshofvan die Europese Unie gegee. Die Suid-Afrikaanse wetgewing toon 'n groot mate van ooreenstemming met wetgewing in the Verenigde Koninkryk en ander Europese lande. Aspekte van die bewoording van die verwateringsbepalings is oop vir interpretasie deur die howe. Tot en met die einde van 2003 was daar slegs een belangrike saak oor handelsmerkverwatering wat deur 'n Suid-Afrikaanse hof beslis is, naamlik SAB v Laugh It Off Promotions. Dit word in detail bespreek. Aanbevelings om die Suid-Afrikaanse howe in die toekoms te help met die interpretasie en aanwending van die verwateringsbepalings, word in die finale hoofstuk gemaak. Veranderinge aan die wetgewing word ook voorgestel, om groter duidelikheid te bereik.

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