Discovering the Value of Liberty in Intellectual Property Adjudication: A Methodological Critique of the Reasoning in Discovery Ltd v Liberty Group Ltd 2020 4 SA 160 (GJ)




intellectual property, trademark, unlawful competition, constitutional methodology, constitutional interpretation, transformative adjudication


This article discusses the recent decision in Discovery Ltd v Liberty Group Ltd 2020 4 SA 160 (GJ), which concerned a claim of trade mark infringement in terms of sections 34(1)(a) and 34(1(c) of the Trade Marks Act 194 of 1993 and unlawful competition on a developed reading of the common law. This article argues that the court arrived at the correct conclusion by the incorrect means and failed to adequately construe the array of constitutional interests and considerations that pertained to the matter on the facts. Further, the lack of clarity on the appropriate constitutional port of entry for the judicial enquiry unnecessarily leaves future courts guessing regarding the correct methodology to employ in cases where intellectual property rights are asserted in opposition to constitutional rights and interests. It is argued that the transformative impetus of section 39(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, as well as numerous substantive constitutional provisions are undermined when courts neglect to anchor judicial reasoning in the constitutional context and merely apply a constitutional veneer to whatever outcome has already been reached. Accordingly, we argue that courts are under a general obligation to root all adjudication in constitutional norms and method, which, we submit, secures a thicker concept of the value of liberty than has been produced in this decision.


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Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Trade Marks Act 194 of 1993



How to Cite

Shay, R., & Moleya, N. I. (2021). Discovering the Value of Liberty in Intellectual Property Adjudication: A Methodological Critique of the Reasoning in Discovery Ltd v Liberty Group Ltd 2020 4 SA 160 (GJ): . Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 24, 1–32.



Case Notes