VSA Memoranda of Understanding (continued)

The Village Scribe Association is investigating the registration of the word “awareNet” as its trademark, in preparation of more widespread use in 2012. Since the service has already been in use for two years — awareNet is a common law trademark, although it may be unclear whether to whom the trademark belongs: eKhaya ICT or the VSA. As reported in an earlier post, we are formalising relationships with all our partners and collaborators. This includes eKhaya ICT, with whom the VSA enjoys long and fruitful relationship.

Although eKhaya ICT clearly holds the copyright to the code of the “machinery” that delivers the awareNet service, the awareNet service is what people deal with and what finally brings about beneficial change in our communities and schools. For this reason, we decided that the awareNet name and trademark is known through the efforts of the VSA and must belong to the VSA. The VSA allows eKhaya ICT to use the trademark in exchange for a portion of any sales of the awareNet “machinery” – even if run under another label.

We think this is a fair arrangement.

In terms of this arrangement, we investigated some of the regulations around trademarks. The word “awareNet” is in use for other purposes than education in other areas of the world. However trademarks are specific to a category and can also only apply to a particular country. The good news is that that word awareNet is not in use in “Class 41: Education; providing of training; entertainment; sporting and cultural activities.” This information was provided by SelfService.co.za for R285, and it comes from the registrar of trademarks office. With this information we can go ahead and apply for a trademark registration in South Africa.

The question is: why should we register? We have a wide audience, and an MoU with eKhaya ICT which confirms the ownership in case of a muddle. Clarity does have a business value – a fact that is often overlooked in small enterprises and organisations. In his poem “Mending Wall”, Frost (1914) questioned whether “Good fences make good neighbours”. Only processes and regulations can craft a world in which 8 billion people can live satisfying lives in peace and this means building virtual demarcations that are transparent to all.

MoU’s can be cancelled and contested. Relationships change. As the South African Registrar of Trade Marks points out:

“Trade marks can only be protected as such and defended under the Act if they are registered. Unregistered trade marks may be defended in terms of common law. The registration procedure results in a registration certificate which has legal status, allowing the owner of the registered trade mark the exclusive right to use that mark.”

Now that’s a good fence.

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