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Friday, February 03, 2006


Rugby Administration: SARU and the HSM connection

You don’t think so? Let’s have a look. Since 2003 there has been a lot of co-operation between SARU and HSM. Who is HSM do you ask? Highbury Safika Monarch is the company that owns titles like SA Rugby, Fifteen and They were previously known as Monarch Communications. Then they changed their name to Highbury Monarch. This happened in 2003

2003 was a traumatic year in our favorite sport. The final crazy days of the reign of Rudolph Straueli, The Geogate scandal. Ngconde Balfour saying he prefers the All Blacks over the Boks and a fifty point snotting of the Boks at Loftus at the hands of the All Blacks. What happened in these dark days?

Where does HSM come from?

They are an offshoot of Monarch Communications, a company registered in 1998. At that stage, a publishing house called Strobe Publishing owned the rights to use the trade mark SA Rugby. In 2002 Strobe Publishing went into liquidation. Highbury Monarch bought some of their assets. Maybe they thought they also bought the rights to the name SA Rugby. The name is actually owned by SARU. It was registered as a trademark as far back as the 1980’s with Danie Craven.

From 2003, the then Highbury Monarch entered into an agreement with then SARFU to publish certain tiles like “Fifteen”, the official SARFU magazine and certain programmes at SARU sponsored matches. No mention was made of the use of the name SA Rugby. Nowhere on the magazine itself or on the HSM website do they acknowledge that SA Rugby is a trademarked name.

From 2003 to January 2006, Highbury Monarch published its titles, including SA Rugby, Fifteen and the programmes at SARU events. From January 2006, a new company, Highbury Safika Monarch publishes these titles.

The connection between HSM and SARU

Now there’s a contract between SARU and HSM about publication of “Fifteen” and match day programmes. What else.

Amazingly, Mark Keohane. Mark Keohane was media liaison of the Boks in the traumatic dark days of 2003. He was the voice of the Springboks. After Geogate broke, Keohane left SARU to start up with then Highbury Monarch Communications. He started the weblog, under the auspices of Highbury Monarch Communications.

But according to ex Bok Joost Van Der Westhuizen, Keohane was half the trouble with the 2003 vintage Boks. Allegedly Keohane was the one who broke the story of Kamp Staaldraad through Dale Granger of the Argus. He goes on to say that Keohane’s appointment as SARFU media liaison was “the blackest day in South African rugby”.

Now we have Highbury Monarch Communications linked to SARU by more than a contract.

But who owns SA Rugby?

Easy, SARU owns “SA Rugby” the name. They registered it in the 80’s and then again in 1999. Then, in 2005, some issues flared between Highbury Safika and SARU about SA Rugby the name. Both parties tried to push it under the table and gloss it over with a joint media statement, but the statement itself confirms that there are issues over use of the name.

Let’s look at a little legal discourse and some professional insight. Lawyers draft contracts. They are pretty damned airtight even if the language they use is awful. Now intellectual property is very complex. If I own registered intellectual property then I can let someone else use it under license. Now the questions we have to ask are complex.

In September 2005 Highbury Monarch and SARU saw fit to publish a media release saying they were discussing the extension of the contract to publish and the use of the name SA Rugby was under discussion. Now in these apparently amicable discussions, both parties saw fit to obtain lawyer’s opinions over the use of the name SA Rugby. Does that sound amicable to you?

A good trademark lawyer costs about R2000-00 an hour. Why spend that to get an opinion for amicable discussions? And why get seriously heavyweight lawyer’s opinions when this was apparently covered in the agreement of 2003

In intellectual property law the use of another’s intellectual property is called “passing off” and if you, as trademark owner allow it for long enough, you lose your trademark and it can be deregistered.

So the answer is SARU owns the trademark at CIPRO, but we don’t really know if HSM have consent to use the name. In a press release of 2 August 2005, however, SARU trumpets that “its” trademarked brand name SA Rugby is worth R3 billion. And yet, they appear to have allowed it to have been used by HSM and its predecessors since 1995 when SA Rugby first came off the presses.

However, there are the questions

Why did both parties get heavyweight lawyer opinions when the contractual relationship, and presumably, the use of the trademarked name were already agreed? Why did they see the need to mention specifically that they were having discussions about the use of the name when all the other matters between them were also in the extension of the contract.

So, does HSM have rights to use the name? If they don’t, then have SARU allowed 11 years of passing off to let their rights to the trademark lapse?

As though this is not enough, under the current administration, close to 3 years have passed and they have done nothing about this situation if it is a trademark violation. And if it is? Then SARU would have allowed a R3 billion brand name to escape from their hands.

I’ll tell you what though. I don’t go visiting my business partners with R2000-00 an hour legal opinions under my arm!
interesting, so SARU can loose the trademark to monarch then?

who will negotiate deals (tv rights etc) if SARU cannot market the trademark SA rugby?

oh well, i suppose they can call it springbok rugby then, i am cool with that.

who owns springbok rugby??????

can i register it?
My son!

I have found you!!!
I didn't even know this.

No wonder Keo was weary to slam any of them.

What about the million rand plus that Highbury owes SARU?

Not just to Monatch.

It becomes public domain, so anyone can then use it.

Hell I can print 10 000 t-shirts and sell them outside Ellispark with the words SA Rugby on them and they wouldn't be able to do anything to me!
surely they can just re-register it?

what is the timeframe for something like this?

Maybe we should register joinly :-)

Doc Craven will be spinning in his grave if SARU lost the trademark.
Spinning in his grave Donner.

He must be staring down from heaven crying.

Maybe all that rain we've been having recently is Doc Craven crying.

Maybe the fires in CT is God's way of trying to tell SARU where they can expect to end up. Pity he keeps missing their offices though...
Jissus - is it just me, or does crap automatically follow wherever the posion dwarf goes?  
It doesn't follow him, he drags it along it seems  
Does these people even know what they are doing?

If all this came out two years ago, SA rugby would have probably be dead by now.
Great article DavidS.And keo reckons that sa rugby supporters are dumb.I just want to thank everyone involved for the grat articles.Well researched and written.Great work,keep it up.
Actually in South Africa it is required that a mark get used every 5 years from the date the mark is registered. If that is not done then a third party can oppose the owner of the mark using "non-use" as grounds for the opposition and possibly stand the chance of taking over ownership.
Also, the owner has to renew their ownership of the mark every 10 years.
Lke anything to do with lawyers, it is all a very sticky business when you get into the details.
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