From songs, to pictures & even cheese - copyright battles that stood out in 2018

14 November 2018 - 11:59 By Ntokozo Miya
European diary producers are embroiled in a legal battle to trademark the taste of a cheese product.
European diary producers are embroiled in a legal battle to trademark the taste of a cheese product.
Image: iStock / Poplasen

When an entity is convinced their idea will make money, the next step is usually to protect that idea by employing copyright restrictions. However, a European court has had to inform a diary company that not all ideas qualify for such protection.

Levola, the producers of a cheese and herd spread, learnt the hard way that the taste of food cannot be protected by law. 

A Netherlands court escalated the matter to the European Court of Justice. There, Levola argued that another dairy producer, Witte Wievenkaas, should stop its production of a cheese product that tastes similar to a Levola offering.

The court declared that taste is too "subjective and variable" for it to qualify for copyright protection. 

The European Court of Justice is familiar with such cases in the food industry. In July, the court ruled that Nestlé could not trademark the four-fingered shape of its Kit Kat chocolate

The matter had been the subject of a ten-year legal battle between Nestlé and rival Cadbury. 

In SA, music and intellectual property are often at the centre of copyright infringement cases. 

Nelson Mandela image saga

In February, the Pretoria High Court was the stage for photographer Shaun Harris' claim that an image he took of Nelson Mandela had been used without his permission.

Harris told the court that the Government Communication Information System had helped itself to the photo he took in 1999 without his permission. He demanded R2bn from the state.

The photographer relied on a report by PictureNet to determine the monetary value of his claim against the state.

The report alleged that the photo had been used no less than "2.1 million" times and that was the basis on which the claim was brought to the court. 

Destruction Boyz and the "stolen" hit song

Back in the 2017 festive season, a party wasn't worth mentioning if the DJ didn't play the track by Destruction Boyz titled Omunye

Jaws dropped when reports alleging that the song was stolen surfaced early in 2018. 

DJ LAG claimed that Destruction Boyz had plagiarised his song, Trip to New York, which had hit the airwaves three months before Omunye.

According to a City Press report, DJ LAG's management team ordered a forensic copyright investigation. 

The investigation found that, apart from the lyrics, the music on the two tracks was identical.

Cassper and Benny fight over right to #FillUp

After a string of hugely successful concerts organised by Cassper Nyovest using the hashtag #FillUp, the rapper applied to have the phrase protected by law. 

The drama began when Tsonga musician Benny Mayengani shared a poster asking his fans to Fill-up Giyani Stadium for one of his performances in September. 

However, at the time of the Benny Mayengani's poster and subsequent event, Cassper had not yet been granted the trademark

After a social media storm, it became clear that the rapper's claim was invalid until registration of the trademark had been finalised. 

Speaking to TimesLIVE, copyright lawyer Adele Els explained: "It is important to point out however, that once registered the rights are granted retrospectively to the date of filing."

Cassper later tweeted that the exchange with Benny Mayengani was a learning curve for him.             

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