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Mandela Petitions Court to Protect Name, Image


A Pretoria High Court has upheld an application by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to prevent use of his name and image on gold coins, without his permission. The case was part of an ongoing effort by the Foundation and Mr. Mandela to prevent abuse of his name and trademarks.

Trademark attorney Don MacRobert says Nelson Mandela's name, image and his trademarks are being used across the world, without his permission, by unscrupulous individuals and companies to make money and popularize brands. And, he adds, South Africa's 86-year-old elder statesman has had enough.

"But there is a certain amount - there is a high degree of irritation that rats and fleas and parasites are jumping onto the bandwagon, and what they think is a quick way to earn a buck," he said.

Mr. MacRobert says all sorts of people are attempting to illegally profit off Mr. Mandela.

"I have some people who have registered a company, called Nelson Mandela Panelbeaters (auto body shop), I have other people who have registered Nelson Mandela Fine Art," Mr. MacRobert says. "Then there are others have who registered Nelson Mandela-dot-com, others have registered, others who have tried to register 46664 and there are 46664 shirts on sale, I believe at Bruma fleamarket. And so, its fairly rampant, if I can use that word, at the moment, and that is what we are trying to stamp out."

As a result, the Nelson Mandela Foundation is taking out trademarks on all Mr. Mandela's names, on the name of the Foundation, on his clan name, Madiba, and on the number 46664, the number he had while in prison, which is now the name of his HIV/AIDS charity.

On Friday, High Court Judge Nico Coetzee ruled that the Johannesburg company Investgold, had flouted an agreement with the Foundation on the import and marketing of gold coins bearing Mr. Mandela's name and his image. In addition, he said, they had failed to obtain proper central bank authority. Judge Coetzee said Mr. Mandela is entitled to protect his good name and reputation.

Mr. Mandela's attorney told VOA that he has also had to take legal action to close down the bank account in Cyprus of a company purporting to be the Nelson Mandela Foundation. He was also compelled to warn the Internet-based company, Yahoo!, to take steps to prevent people from using its facilities to falsely claim they represented the Foundation.

Mr. MacRobert says the Foundation will from now on take action anywhere in the world to protect Mr. Mandela's trademarks and to ensure that his legacy of charitable works for the underprivileged and for those living with AIDS, can continue long after he is gone.