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September 12, 2008

Who has the right to Mandela Brand Naming?

Mandela_lg.jpgSouth Africa is struggling with how to use the Mandela name as a brand and their problems are are quite interesting.

The Mandela name is iconic, and everyone seems to want to cash in on it. Coin dealers offer a "Free Mandela" medal for good customers, and recently one group tried to sell The Madiba Diamond ("Madiba" is the great man's nickname).

Brand Mandela has truly become a huge industry, with the Mandela name and likeness finding its way on to everything from comics to coasters.

The overuse of the name has led to protests by the Nelson Mandela Foundation of people "exploiting his name for commercial gain," mainly because Mandela himself wants the name only associated with charitable organizations.

Perhaps it is too late. The Nelson Mandela name is already being appended to South African airports as well as entire cities despite the Foundation's efforts to trademark Mandela's name, his clan names (Madiba and Rolihlahla) and his Xhosa name." On top of that, the Nelson Mandela Foundation should try to trademark his famous prison number, 46664, which at one point was being used on gold coins as well as Internet scams.

It really is quite a sketchy area in the brand naming business. Sooner or later, the Mandela name will simply become part of common usage, like Washington or Lincoln, and there will be few ways to protect it.

Mandela is now over ninety years old and it does seem that what the man actually achieved, which was absolutely extraordinary, may soon become another common part of South Africa's brand naming landscape.

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Posted by William Lozito at September 12, 2008 8:01 AM
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