TWO experiences in our tiny platteland dorp today set me up for the judgment I’ve just read.
We were running in the veld, the two dogs and I, when suddenly they stopped, alert, watching a cow and her still wet, new-born calf lying on the grass. The mother stepped between the dogs and her calf, shielding it from potential danger. I called the dogs and we trotted up the hill as she nosed the calf off the ground and it began drinking.
The second incident was a business meeting in a friend’s eatery, down the road from me in Smithfield, on the N6. From the corner of his eye, through the window, he saw something or someone moving in his garden. As he’s wheelchair-bound it’s not easy for him to get around and he asked one of the others at the meeting to see what was happening. Was it a cow that had got into the garden, he asked – roving cattle are a major problem for gardeners here. Or is it – and here he named the woman who looks after his self-catering business.
At this one of the others at the meeting remarked, ‘Whichever, it’s still a cow.’
What pained me most about the comment was that the man who made it expected everyone, including the two women present, to find it funny. It’s something we all do I suppose – implicate other people in the underlying prejudices exposed in our language and assume everyone shares our point of view.
Anyway, by the time I got round to reading judgments there was only really one choice, given all that had gone before: the case of Jump Sport, trading as World of Sport and Entertainment, against Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd.
This particular decision concerns a technical side-show to the dispute between the two litigants. In the course of the judgment the fundamental issue became clear: who ‘owns’ a group of women, professional dancers, known as the ‘Bull Babes’? Who owns the ‘Bull Babes’ trademark and logo? To answer these questions, and to assert the claim of each to ‘owning’ the ‘babes’, the Blue Bulls and Jump Sport have gone to court, in the process spending more money than I’ll earn in the rest of my life.
From the decision we learn that Judge Tati Makgoka knows something about rugby. For instance that the Bulls professional rugby team has achieved notable success in international competitions, while the Blue Bulls team ‘plays amateur rugby, and is arguably the most successful provincial team in the history of South African rugby.’
During 2003, according to the judgment, Blue Bulls and Jump Sport reached an agreement, though its exact terms are disputed, for Jump Sport to provide professional dancers, paid for by Blue Bulls, to perform as cheerleaders when the Bulls played home matches at Loftus Versfeld stadium.
The Bulls Babes wore kit paid for by Blue Bulls, carrying a ‘Bulls Babes logo’, ‘based on and deliberately similar to the … well-known Bulls logo.’ No one disputes that Blue Bulls own this ‘well-known’ trademark, but among other things the two sides dispute who named the cheerleaders, who designed their logo, who owns the Blue Babes’ trademark and whether there’s joint or sole ownership.
‘It appears,’ notes the judge, ‘that the popularity of the Bulls Babes extended beyond rugby, as often Vodacom sought their appearance at social functions, rather than rugby.’ Various attempts were made to sort out the legitimate owner of the Babes’ trademark, but they failed. Now the two sides are poised for a trial in which each will try to convince the court that the Babes belong to them.
One result of this dispute is that the Bulls Babes no longer perform at rugby matches, ‘much to the chagrin and dismay of the supporters of the game,’ notes the judge as an aside.
Central to the preliminary skirmish resolved last week was the question of whether the Blue Bulls had to hand over a copy of the sponsorship agreement made with Vodacom as part of the documents disclosed to Jump Sport before the trial.
The judge, who has seen the contract, said the agreement with Vodacom was relevant to the dispute and that the Blue Bulls had to give a copy to Jump Sport. However, said the judge, he agreed that some provisions were ‘of a confidential nature’, and so the Blue Bulls need only hand over a suitably edited copy of the document.
While the dispute now nudges towards a trial, the bereft Loftus home crowd must make a plan to cope without the ‘Bulls Babes’. Arme kalfies; poor little things.