Before you apply

A trade mark is registrable if:

  • It serves the purpose of distinguishing the goods/services of one trader from those of another trader
  • It does not consist exclusively of a sign or an indication which may serve, in trade, to designate the kind, quality, quantity, intended purpose, value, geographical origin or other characteristics of your goods or services, or the mode or time of their production or of rendering of the services
  • It has not become customary in your field of trade
  • It does not represent protected emblems, such as the national flag or a depiction of a national monument such as Table Mountain
  • It is not offensive or contrary to the law or good morals or deceptive by nature or way of use
  • There are no earlier conflicting rights

Examples of Non-Registrable Trade Marks

The following are examples of trade marks, for which registration will be refused by our office, because they are not capable of distinguishing for purposes of the Trade Marks Act. In other words, they cannot serve the purpose of distinguishing the goods or services of one trader from those of another trader.

Example 1: "24 Hours"

24 HOURS cannot be registered as a trade mark, since the expression is reasonably required for use by other traders. Should we register the mark, the owner of the registration would acquire the exclusive right to use this phrase and thereby prevent all other traders from using it. This cannot be allowed.

Example 2: "Cheese"

The word CHEESE cannot serve as a trade mark for cheese, as it will not distinguish the cheese manufactured by one trader from that of another. It will thus not serve the purpose of a trade mark.

Example 3: "Server"

If the word SERVER should be registered for computer services, nobody in that field of that particular industry would be able to use the word in their everyday practice. This would be unfair to the traders in the specific industry and also detrimental to trade. Therefore, the Act prohibits the registration of words or phrases reasonably required for use in the specific field of trade. However, the word SERVER may be registered for clothing, because in that field the word is not in common use in the normal course of trade.



  • Invented words, logos or pictures are generally distinctive if not copied or become customary in the trade:
PRZAY eskzzee LobuLo
  • Add a distinctive word or symbol to a non distinctive word or phrase
ZeZe Internet Cafe for restuarant services
Piggy Juice for fruit juice
Ivanov's Pizza Place

Special Search (Optional)

Before applying for a trade mark registration:

  1. You may apply on a form TM2 for a special (preliminary) search in the Trade Marks Register to determine if there are no existing prior rights in an identical or confusingly similar trade mark to your intended mark, which could prevent the registration of yours.
  2. The form TM2 must be completed as shown on the SAMPLE TM2.
  3. The cost for a special search is R190.00 and the proof of payment must reach us on or before the date that you apply for the special search.
  4. This fee is payable for each separate class/es you require the special search to be conducted in.
  5. The processing time for a special search is approximately 15 working days.


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