Row erupts over Miss Rural trademark

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HARARE – A row has erupted between Miss Rural pageant founder and trademark rights holder Sipho Mazibuko and Oil Castor, a bio-technology company in Harare over the use of the pageant’s trade name.

Oil Castor have launched a beauty pageant dubbed Miss Rural Africa June 2020.

The company is a subsidiary of Canada-based SSC LTD and its focus is on encouraging rural farmers in Africa to grow castor bean.

In an interview with Daily News Mazibuko said: “I am the founder of Miss Rural and also the sole trademark rights holder. Someone has apparently stolen my idea and needs to be exposed.”

Miss Rural Zimbabwe was founded in 2003 due to its unique appeal and broadened its scope to become a national event in 2006.

Its aim is to celebrate rural life and uplift lives of the usually marginalised rural girls.

Mazibuko said the words “Miss Rural” are her trademark registered under Thandazo Retail and Marketing (Private) Limited for a period of 10 years until May 31, 2026.

Mazibuko is now suing the organisers of Miss Rural Africa June 2020 — Oil Castor for copyright infringement.

In response to these allegations, Oil Castor co-founder Alvaro Ivan Silva Arellano said his pageant is clearly labelled as Miss Rural Africa June 2020 and that his lawyers had advised him to use that name.

“I don’t know what you or your client is alleging, but it is preposterous and that is my side of the story,” said Arellano.

Asked whether he had tried to speak to Mazibuko concerning this issue, Arellano said Mazibuko had instead reached out to him.

“I am only trying to empower women, not infringe on people’s intellectual properties. At Oil Castor we take pride in educating and paying our farmers; we wish to do the same for the rural women of Zimbabwe.”

Arellano also revealed that when he formed the pageant last month on Facebook someone got him blocked and Facebook took them down.

He is now planning to rebuild the pageant on their website OilCastor.com.

Mazibuko has since engaged a lawyer, Nancy Samuriwo of Samuriwo Attorneys who confirmed that she was indeed representing Mazibuko and the Miss Rural pageant.

“What this means is that by law the purpose of one having intellectual rights is to have exclusive rights to the name and this also bars any other person from trying to create a link to the same trademark,” said Samuriwo.

“My client’s objection is that these people have used the words ‘Miss’ and ‘Rural’ in the same space and this can cause likelihood of deception.”

Samuriwo also said that it is unfortunate that intellectual property and trademarks are not well understood in Zimbabwe as it is more about what the public will assume from such similar names and this is therefore deception.

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