A French firm's attempt to trademark Rooibos could have a "significant negative impact" on South Africa's exports of Rooibos products to France, the department of trade and industry (DTI) said on Thursday.
"The DTI stands ready to defend South Africa's trade and intellectual property interests vigorously," minister Rob Davies said in a statement.
"However, the issues in this particular matter will require an urgent assessment of the legal options to strengthen protection of the Rooibos name in South Africa."
Davies added that this was not the first time that a foreign company tried to "capture the intellectual property associated with Rooibos".
"The DTI will support the local industry to protect our mutual trade and economic interests."
He said his department was working with the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries and had raised its objection with the French Embassy in South Africa and the European Commission Delegation in Pretoria.
"These engagements will be further intensified to seek an acceptable resolution to the matter," he added.
The department said Rooibos tea is made from the leaves of a unique shrub, indigenous only to South Africa. A number of Rooibos products in South Africa are already protected by South Africa's domestic trademark legislation.