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Trademark for a sports event

Tips for protecting sports event brands

South Africans sure love our sports. We love playing them, both on the field and from our couches. There are many well‐known home‐grown events, and major international events hosted in South Africa (including, the event "that must not be named").

A BIG rule in trademark law is that the brand must be "distinctive ". Basically, what this means is that the name should not simply describe the event (e.g. "CAPE TOWN CYCLE RACE" would be an exceptionally poor choice for, well, a bicycle race in Cape Town). When people see your brand, they should not confuse your event with another's sports event.

In practice, this rule is as difficult to apply for sports events as the nebulous Duckworth Lewis rule (which absolutely no‐one understands), because you kind of need to communicate what the event is about. Our top tip is to pair the name of the relevant sport with another unique word. Good examples are the COMRADES MARATHON ‐ the word "marathon" is clearly descriptive, but when coupled with the distinctive word COMRADES, the brand is gold. The trademark for COMRADES MARATHON does not give exclusive rights to the word "marathon", as is clear from TWO OCEANS MARATHON, SOWETO MARATHON, CAPE TOWN MARATHON and NON‐STOP DUSI MARATHON. Alternatively, add an affectionate name for the place where the event will be held ‐ like "Jozi" or "Durbs".

A great trademark for a sport event hints at the type of event without expressing it directly. That makes IRON MAN a great trademark ‐ it makes you think of strength and resilience, just what you need to win the competition. MUDDY PRINCESS is another good one: hinting at what the competition is, without actually saying "obstacle course race where you get really super muddy".

Whatever you do, avoid a foul against FIFA, and stay away from SOCCER WORLD CUP. Oops, I mentioned it! That's like poking a sleepin' bear.


The most relevant category in which to file a sports event trademark is class 41 "sporting events and entertainment". Now, savvy businesspersons would also want to cover merchandising angles. So consider extending your trademark registration to the following related classes to guard against an offside play:

Big player analysis

Mark Class
SA Trademark Sport Event 9 (software, sunglasses, DVD's), 14 (jewellery and watches), 16 (programs, calendars, magazines), 18 (bags and suitcases), 20 (cushions, chairs, photo frames, keyrings), 21 (mugs, water bottles), 26 (badges), 34 (lighters, matches, smokers' articles), 41 (education and entertainment), 42 (which has been reclassified as 43) (food and drink hospitality)
SA Trademark Sports Brand 8 (hand tool), 9, 20, 21, 42 (which has been reclassified as class 43)


3 (cosmetics, cleaning products), 9, 16, 18, 24 (towels), 25 (hats, buffs, t‐shirts, shoes, socks), 28 (sporting equipment, board games and toys), 29 (foodstuffs), 30, 41


3, 9, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 41, 43
SA Trademark Event Register SA Trademark Event Trademark SA Trademark Event Trademark

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