An intellectual property war is looming between LEGALWISE Botswana and LEGALWISE South Africa following a collapse in the South African company’s attempt to buy into the Botswana company.
The South African legal aid insurance company had initially reserved the name in Botswana but was de-registered a few years ago because they had failed to submit their returns with the Botswana Registrar of Trade Marks.
The name ÔÇô LEGALWISE Botswana- was later given to the Botswana company which also offers legal aid insurance services.
Earlier this year, the South African company decided to expand into Botswana. When they discovered that the Registrar of Trade Marks had already given the name they had earlier reserved to the Botswana company, they opened negotiations with the Botswana company to buy them out. The Non Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority was informed of the Planned buy out and the result was a letter from the regulatory authority to LEGALWISE Botswana enquiring about the planned transition of business from the Botswana company to Legal Wise South Africa.
However, after negotiations fell through, lawyers acting for the South African company wrote to LEGALWISE Botswana giving them up to 13th October 2008 to cease using the name LEGALWISE BOTSWANA or face litigation.
The firm, Spoor Fisher, which specializes in patents, trade marks and copyright stated that “our clients have used their LEGALWISE trade marks extensively in Southern Africa including Botswana…. It has come to our client’s attention that you are using the trade mark LEGALWISE in relation to legal insurance services. Such use infringes our clients registered trade marks and amounts to passing off… Our instructions are to call on you to immediately cease all use of the trade mark LEGALWISE failing which infringement proceedings will be instituted against you”.
The firm copied the letter to LEGALWISE Botswana underwriters, Botswana Eagle Insurance and their insurance broker Atlantis Insurance Brokers threatening to institute legal proceedings against them as well.
In a curious turn of events, Atlantis has terminated their agency agreement with LEGALWISE Botswana and has already notified the Non Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority claiming that LEGALWISE Botswana had breached their agency agreement as well as the Insurance Industry Act.
Acting on the letter from Atlantis, the Non Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority last month withdrew the LEGALWISE Botswana trading licence.
In another curious turn of events, LEGALWISE South Africa this week ran an advert in a Botswana newspaper under the trademark LEGHALWISE Botswana. The advert was in the same paper with another advert by the Non Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority announcing that they had withdrawn the LEGALWISE Botswana trading licence.
Indications, however, are that things may get uglier before they get better. The Botswana company is in the process of clinching an agreement with another underwriter and may push to have their licence reinstated. This may result in the companies trading under the name LEGALWISE Botswana, one registered by the Botswana Registry of Trademarks and the other registered as LEGALWISE in South Africa.