Let’s face it, the labelling requirements for wine under the previous regime was down-right boring, not in terms of the minimum requirements imposed by the Labelling Committee which all modern labels still have to comply with, but rather the artistic input on the labelling, or lack thereof, itself. Visiting any store selling wine now is overwhelming with the amount of wines featuring beautiful, high quality labels that are considered works of art. The labelling itself has become a separate drawcard from the actual wine or even the farm from where it originates. Some notable labels come to mind, for example, Saronsberg has set itself apart with their Provenance range, featuring stunning artwork by artist Paul du Toit, Diemersdal produced a stunning label for their 2009 Matys Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend, and the Juno range of Cape Maidens is, if anything, provocative and eye-catching to say the least.

The one label, however, that might not stand the test of time, at least not in Cape Town and surrounds, is the Splattered Toad label of Cape Point Vineyards. The endangered Western Leopard Toad received much press recently on national television, highlighting the danger motorists pose to this endangered species. Against this background, The Splattered Toad label, as fresh and light-hearted as it may have been intended, could end up on the extinct species list itself.

No doubt, in time, these and other labels that have set themselves apart from their competitors, will develop into stand-alone trade marks of the product they are selling, separately and apart from the traditional main trade marks such as Saronsberg or Diemersdal in the examples above. It is important that the owners of these labels take pro-active steps in protecting them by way of trade mark registrations as, not only would the artwork in the label be protected against any unauthorised copying, but it would also be protected against any label that may be confusingly similar, although not identical. Provided the requirements are met, the Copyright Act automatically protects artistic works, however, the protection is somewhat limited as the Act requires actual copying whereas the Trade Marks Act, which requires the registering of the trade marks by owners, protects against copying that is confusingly similar, if not necessarily identical.

It makes sense then that as owners are already protected by the Copyright Act, they file trade mark applications for the wine label, or distinctive parts of the label, in order to fully protect their beautifully designed creations.