In a satisfying conclusion to attempts by AHPA and others to challenge the
legitimacy of a trademark for the name “rooibos,” AHPA has been notified that
the owner of the trademark has informed the US Patent and Trademark Office
(USPTO) that it has “voluntarily surrender[ed]” the mark.
represents an important precedent,” stated Michael McGuffin, AHPA’s president.
“AHPA will continue to be vigilant in preventing any individual company from
claiming the sole right to use an established common name for any plant in
is the standard common name for the South African plant Aspalathus
linearis, a US trademark for the word “rooibos” was registered in 1994. The
owner of the mark, Burke International, sought to protect the trademark by
claiming that labels that correctly identified Aspalathus linearis as
rooibos were infringing on their trade name.
USPTO to force a cancellation of the trademark were undertaken by AHPA and by
Rooibos, Ltd., a South African exporter of the herb. In addition, a lawsuit
brought by The Republic of Tea against Burke was resolved in January 2005 with a
US District Court decision that the trademark was invalid and should be
cancelled. Burke’s notice of voluntary surrender was dated June 24, 2005, and
was served on that date to AHPA’s counsel.