Radical media, politics and culture.

South African IP Battle [Laught it off/Unilever]

Laugh It Off in yet another copyright infringement battle

South African culturejammers face more legal battles

Cape Town based South African controversial design and media company is involved in yet another copyright infringement battle.

The company creates culture jamming oriented t-shirts and print media that makes satirical commentary on social and political issues, primarily focusing on local concerns.

The following is from their mailing list.

Domestic Violence:

Laugh it Off has received a letter of demand from Unilever PLC and Lever Ponds SA with regard to our alleged infringement of Trade Mark Registration No. 2000/01434 (DOMESTOS ARROW DEVICE), in the Laugh it Off Annual of South African Youth Culture. The satirical advertorial produced by Laugh it Off is attached.

The patent lawyers representing Unilever, Spoor & Fisher, are not only demanding that we pay their legal costs, but that we also 'offer up for destruction' all advertising material bearing the DOMESTOS ARROW DEVICE. Effectively, Spoor & Fisher are asking us to destroy all copies of the Annual that 'are in your (our) possession or under your (our) control'. We have strong feelings on the matter, and consider it ludicrous that both Unilever and Spoor & Fisher should take their Trade Mark so seriously as to want to 'protect' it from the satirical use thereof in a book. Not a T-shirt mind you, as with our on-going Black Labour dispute (appeal date yet to be set), but a book. When does the constitutional right to freedom of speech triumph over the right to protect a trade mark, if not in a book?

The patent lawyer handling this matter is Louise Myburgh, BEcon (Hons) LLB.

Why not contact her directly on: l.myburgh@spoor.com with your thoughts as to what is more important, an ARROW DEVICE or valid social comment pertaining to domestic violence? According to the website, 'Louise is married to Jaco and has two young daughters. In her spare time she enjoys reading and spending time with her family'. Hopefully she is not one of the many female victims of domestic violence in our country.

We spoke to Dr. Naeema Abrahams, Senior Researcher for the Gender and Health Research Group, to shed some light on the horrors of domestic violence in our country:

1 in 4 women are physically abused by an intimate partner. This was the result of a study done by Dr Rachel Jewkes (Director of Gender and Health Research Group), and is based on the National Demographic & Health Survey, as well as a 3 Province Study which explored this abuse in more detail, and her findings were published in the SA Medical Journal, 2001. (91 (5): 421-428)

South Africa has the highest number of reported rape cases, compared with other countries.

In 1996 240 per 100 000 women reported rape & attempted rape to the police - this is 3 times more than what has been reported in the US. (80/100 000). It is well known that those in intimate relationships often do not report cases of sexual violence. This was published in a report the Epidemiology of Rape & Sexual Coercion in SA, Social Science & Medicine, 2002 (55(7): 1231-1244)

Women in physically abusive relationships, often have psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety problems and Post-Traumatic Distress Syndrome (PTDS).


Jewkes,R.; Penn-Kekana,L.; Levin,J.; Ratsaka,M.; Schrieber,M. (2001). Prevalence of emotional, physical and sexual abuse of women in three South African provinces. South African Medical Journal, 91 (5): 421-428.

Jewkes R & Abrahams N. (2002). The epidemiology of rape and sexual coercion in South Africa: an overview. Social Science & medicine. 55(7): 1231-1244.