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S. Africa To France: ‘Hands Off Rooibos Tea Rights’

S. Africa To France: ‘Hands Off Rooibos Tea Rights’

A French business has applied to register rooibos tea — grown exclusively in South Africa — as a trademark, and the South African Rooibos Council is taking steps to protect the rooibos name internationally, according to a report in BusinessDayLive.

The industry said it does not object to rooibos tea-related trademarks anywhere in the world, but wants to stop the French from gaining exclusive rights, the report said.

Rooibos is a broom-like plant and member of the legume family growing mainly in South Africa’s Western Cape Province. The leaves are used to make a bush tea that has been popular in Southern Africa for generations and is now consumed in many countries.

“In a previous attempt by a French firm last year we managed to avoid them getting exclusive rights,” said rooibos council co-ordinator Soekie Snyman. “We want it known that rooibos is from South Africa, that this country is the only source worldwide of this product.

“We want to promote rooibos as an iconic South African brand, but we also want to grow the international market for the benefit of all our growers and for that we need global trade partners.”

The council is taking steps to protect the rooibos name internationally, and published proposed regulations in the Government Gazette of July 12.

Council director Martin Bergh said the European Union would not grant protection against companies trying to register or copyright names if they were not protected in their country of origin. “This is the start of a process that will enable us to apply for geographical indicator status, much like champagne, Darjeeling tea, basmati rice and Colombian coffee,” he said. “It will prevent future instances of overseas companies attempting to trademark the generic brand name for their own commercial gain.”

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