Firstrand wins ‘First’ trademark war

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FNB100

Nonhlanhla Kambule

First National Bank autoteller machine at Eastgate in Gauteng.

Pretoria - Firstrand Bank Ltd has turned to the Pretoria High Court, objecting to First Central Insurance Ltd’s use of the word “first” and arguing that the public will confuse the two companies.

Firstrand Bank succeeded in its application for the trademark “First Central Insurance” to be removed from the register of trademarks.

Firstrand said it was the proprietor of a series of trademarks, such as First National, First Leasing and First Link.

The “First” trademark related to its banking, financial and credit card services and the other two were associated with its insurance and financial services.

First Central Insurance incorporated the word “First” as a prefix.

Firstrand said this was likely to lead the public to assume that First Central Insurance’s trademark was part of Firstrand’s series of services bearing the “First” trademark and that the services of the two businesses were connected.

First Central Insurance argued that Firstrand did not have exclusivity and the sole right to use the word “first”.

It argued that Firstrand had not presented any evidence or proof to show that it enjoyed a reputation and goodwill in South Africa regarding the name “first” or that the public would confuse the two businesses.

Firstrand said it had established that First Central Insurance had not traded since March 1998.

It also said that the registered address of the company was actually the address of a firm of attorneys.

Judge DS Fourie said in his judgment that except for documents indicating four or five insurance claims lodged with the respondent, no documents had been submitted to the court to indicate the actual use of the trademark since 2007.

Evidence submitted by the respondent regarding the company was sparse and lacked conviction.

Also, no evidence was handed to court, such as pictures of business premises, showing whether the company traded nationwide or only locally.

Nor were there brochures indicating it had rendered a service to the public.

All this created the impression that the respondent was not commercially active, Judge Fourie said.

“I have to conclude that the respondent had no serious intention of carrying on a trade as a commercial enterprise.” - Pretoria News


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