Certification processes exist in almost all industries to ensure that goods and services are of a high quality. Certification marks are applied to products or services that have been assessed and meet the necessary requirements. This certification creates transparency in the market, which is important for both consumers and businesses.

For example, the GreenTag certification mark confirms that a product is of a high eco-health standard, whereas the Fairtrade certification mark focuses on improving labour and living conditions for farming communities and promoting farming methods that harm neither people nor the environment.

In South Africa, the same principles that apply to the registration of ordinary trademarks apply to the registration of certification marks. As such, a certification mark must be capable of distinguishing goods or services in order to be registrable. However a certification mark notably cannot be registered in the name of a party that carries out a trade in the goods or services for which registration is sought.

In recent years, the South African craft beer industry has grown rapidly and there are no signs of this growth slowing down. Larger commercial beer companies have been heavily affected by the market's shift towards craft beer over local lager and have thus started to acquire craft breweries.

However, a large number of craft breweries wish to remain true to their culture and customers. These craft breweries must now compete against breweries that produce and promote craft beers, but have actually been acquired by commercial brewing giants.

In order to prevent the term 'craft beer' from becoming diluted in the near future, many remaining craft breweries feel that consumers should be made aware of these matters and that the market should be completely transparent.

In the United States, the Brewers Association for Small and Independent Craft Breweries has registered a certification mark which is a handy tool for enthusiasts to differentiate beer produced by craft brewers from beer produced by non-craft companies. This is a great example of the importance of certification marks and how they can save a product's heritage and culture.

It is surely only a matter of time before South Africa adopts a similar certification process to protect the nature of 'true' craft beer.

For further information on this topic please contact Ruan Dickinson at KISCH IP by telephone (+27 11 324 3000) or email (ruand@kisch-ip.com). The KISCH IP website can be accessed at www.kisch-ip.com.

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