A Remarkable Woman in the IP Industry

Zama Buthelezi is a partner at Spoor & Fisher, a South African law firm specialising in intellectual property (IP) law. With many years of experience in the field, Zama has established herself as a reputable legal expert with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in IP law – specifically in trade marks and copyright. Her passion for the field has seen her handle a diverse range of matters, from trade mark prosecution, enforcement, and formalities work, to copyright-related matters and regulatory matters (specifically food law).

Academically, Zama holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Howard College) and a Master of Laws (LLM) degree in Business Law, also from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Howard College). She is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa, a qualified trade mark practitioner, and a fellow of the South African Institute of Intellectual Property Law (SAIIPL).

Recognised as an IP rising star by Managing Intellectual Property, Zama’s clients have high praise for her strategic advice, attention to detail, and ability to provide practical solutions to complex legal problems.

However, her journey to success has not been an easy one. As a black woman in the IP industry, Zama has faced challenges, which she has overcome with perseverance, dedication, and hard work. Here, we explore Zama’s journey as a woman in the IP industry, her experience as a single mother, and her contributions to promoting IP awareness and education in South Africa.


A Rising Star in Intellectual Property Law Despite Challenges

Zama’s journey as a woman in the IP industry has been challenging, but also rewarding.  When Zama started her career in IP, she was one of the few black women in the field.  She landed a job at a law firm in Durban, but her career path took an unexpected turn when she fell pregnant during her articles. “I did not get maternity leave, and because I couldn’t afford to take four months off without a salary, I only took one month,” she says. 

“It was a difficult time because I had to balance my career with my responsibilities as a new mother.” Zama’s situation was made even more challenging by the fact that she was a single mother. “It was tough, but I had to do what I had to,” she says. “I knew I had to work hard to provide for my child, and I was determined to make it in the IP industry.”

Zama’s determination paid off. She did not remain at the law firm where she did her articles, but started working for a Johannesburg-based law firm, which meant leaving her young child with her mother in Durban, which was not an easy decision. “It was hard being away from my child, but I knew that I had to make sacrifices to pursue my career,” she says.

Working in a different city from her child was challenging for Zama but also presented her with new opportunities. “I formed connections with people in the IP space – that on its own helped me to grow and expand my horizons,” she says. Zama’s personal journey as a woman in the IP industry is a testament to the challenges and sacrifices many women face when trying to establish their careers while navigating motherhood and family life responsibilities.

Despite these challenges, Zama persevered and made the necessary sacrifices to pursue her dreams and ambitions. Her story serves as an inspiration to many young women who may be facing similar obstacles in their careers.


Commitment to Breaking Barriers

Zama believes that women should be encouraged to pursue careers in the IP industry and that there should be equal opportunities for all genders. She feels that the industry needs to actively promote and support women, and create an environment where they can thrive and succeed. Her journey has also taught her the importance of mentorship and support networks. She believes that women need to support each other and lift each other up, particularly in male-dominated industries like IP law.

Zama’s personal journey as a woman in the IP industry is a testament to the challenges and obstacles that many women face in trying to establish their careers. However, through hard work, perseverance, and sacrifice, Zama has risen to become a successful and highly respected professional in her field. Her contribution to the IP industry extends beyond her legal practice. She is actively involved in promoting IP awareness and education in South Africa and has delivered presentations and training sessions to various stakeholders, including government officials, industry associations, and academic institutions. Zama’s journey is a source of inspiration to many young women who aspire to make their mark in the IP industry. Her story serves as a reminder that with dedication, hard work, and support from others, anything is possible.

As the world celebrates World IP Day and the theme “Women in IP law,” Zama Buthelezi stands out as a shining example of a successful woman in the IP industry. Her achievements are a testament to the power of determination, hard work, and perseverance, and her story is one that should inspire us all.