Say hello, wave goodbye

09 Sep 2016

I have just returned from a fascinating and uplifting visit to South Africa.

For the past 14 years, the Association's legal work in the country has been my remit, but that role is now being handed over to my colleague Andrew Swift. The trip was an opportunity for Andrew to meet our contacts in the country and for me, with no little regret, to hand over my caseload and say my goodbyes.

In what was a packed week we visited Johannesburg, Pretoria, Stellenbosch and Cape Town, holding meetings with our local legal advisers, the South African Revenue Service, and the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food. We also spent time with some of our members who provided excellent insight into the practical aspects of selling Scotch in Africa, and the sorts of challenges that we should look out for. However, the centrepiece for the visit was our participation in the International Trademark Association's "Building Africa with Brands" event in Cape Town.

This was the first conference of its type in Africa and it was attended by almost 200 lawyers, trade mark agents and brand owners from across the continent and further afield. Over the course of two days we heard from a range of speakers on various aspects of building and protecting brands. The event got off to a flying start with an address by Robbie Brozin, the colourful founder of Nando's, who included screenings of some of the banned but hilarious adverts for his restaurants.

Although appearing further down the bill, I was delighted to be able to speak at two sessions: one on geographical indications of origin and the other outlining the SWA's legal protection work and its code of responsible marketing.

A telling moment was when mentioning the quality of local courts, I was met with applause and cheers from the audience - not something that happens in Edinburgh. Initially I was somewhat taken aback, but speaking to people afterwards two things became apparent. First, Africans are very proud of the efforts they are making to bring their legal systems up to internationally recognised standards, and, secondly, that we in the west are not giving this the proper recognition it deserves. That was an important lesson.

Lindesay Low is senior legal counsel at the SWA