Pretoria - Mamelodi is on the verge of having a beer named after the township - but beer lovers may not be able to indulge in it this festive season, as two brewers are battling over the exclusive right to the brew.
In one corner, Vusi Beauchamp claimed he registered a brewing company called Gauteng Breweries with his brother in 2016, in the hope of creating proudly local brews.
Beauchamp said they then decided to name the beer after Mamelodi and subsequently registered it with the Department of Trade and Industry. They named it Mamelodi Strong Beer.
He said he believed that anyone else wishing to register a business associating Mamelodi or beer could not do so, as he and his brother held the trademark.
Beauchamp said his company had already created the mock-up and was planning to launch the beer ahead of the festive season when his hopes were dashed by another brewer.
“I started seeing the concept of Mamelodi Lager on social media and this freaked me out. I found it too coincidental that another person started a similar idea when we are brewing from the same place,” he said.
“I tried to nip it in the bud quickly by making contact with him, but he has not been as forthcoming. I don’t understand whether he understands the process of trademarks.”
He said he did not want any mudslinging because, at the end of the day, they were both “black guys from the township” trying to bring a proudly local product to the market.
“Every time, we have European brands flooding our markets with their products And I wanted to change that. As two young guys from the township, we are already working on one.
“This is too much of a coincidence,” Beauchamp said.
In the opposite corner is Melusi Hlempu, founder of Mamelodi Lager. He said he made the decision to get into the beer market last year and name it after the vibrant township where he grew up.
Hlempu said when he came up with the idea he went to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) and put in an application. He picked up the name of the other brewer on the database.
He said Beauchamp approached him a few months later questioning him about the company, but he referred him to the CIPC.
Hlempu said: “I don’t really know what the problem is, because I don’t think our ideas are similar. I admit I haven’t really had the time to look into the matter, because I have been trying to distribute my beer and get my brand out there.”
University of Pretoria expert Chris Job warned that as matters stood, neither of them had the trademark rights. Job is associate director at the Centre for Intellectual Property Law in the Law Faculty at the university, and a senior consultant at Adam & Adams.
He said the law did not allow a person to monopolise a name of an area as it was public domain. This could only be allowed in exceptional circumstances.
Job said the men had two co-pending applications and still had to undergo an examination process, which could take up to anything from 18 months to two years to accomplish.
He said the legislation regarded geographical origin trademarks as unregistrable.
He advised there were two ways to get trademark rights: by registration with the relevant bodies or through the law.
Job said: “The first person who complained has no registered rights under common law or on the basis of goodwill. It is not even a copyright. The second brewer might have rights on the basis of goodwill, as he has already started trading under the name.”
He advised Beauchamp and Hlempu to sit down, negotiate and decide on the way forward.