In 1874, the business that is today known as KISCH IP began trading under the name Kisch and Harsant General Merchants – later becoming DM Kisch Inc. Its founder, Daniel Montague Kisch, was a man of enterprise, enthusiasm and perseverance. This is his story and the rich heritage of the firm now known as KISCH IP.
Daniel Kisch’s early life
Daniel Montague Kisch was born on 7 June 1840 in Wisbeck, St Peter’s, Cambridgeshire, England, and received his schooling in Norwich.
The family Kisch was an English-Jewish family, which had lived in Prague for many centuries. At the end of the eighteenth century, two of its sons settled in England. Daniel Kisch’s father was one of these sons.
In 1858, as a result of Daniel’s poor health at the age of 18, his doctor ordered him to set sail for Australia. However, having encountered Durban en route, Daniel soon left Australia to settle in South Africa; specifically Cape Town.
From 1868 to 1873, Daniel prospected on the goldfields of Tati, along the Umfuli River and elsewhere in Mashonaland (modern-day Zimbabwe). He explored the area, hunted, and spent time with Paramount Chief Lobengula.
Marriage and life in Pretoria
In 1873 Daniel visited England and married Rebecca Spier, a Londoner. The couple travelled by Union Line Steamer to South Africa and, during the voyage, befriended Cecil John Rhodes, the South African politician.
Daniel and Rebecca settled in Pretoria in 1874. Although it was still a young and relatively undeveloped village, Pretoria seemed to Daniel to be full of financial potential. He established a business known as Kisch and Harsant – General Merchants amongst other (Harsant left the business in 1876, returning to England).
Achievements and appointments
Kisch and Harsant prospered and diversified, extending into real estate and accounting, and moving into new premises on Church Square, Pretoria.
In 1875 Daniel was sworn in as Justice of the Peace by PJ Joubert (acting State President of the South African Republic) and H Stiemens (acting Secretary of State). His son, Charles Herbert Moses, was born in the same year. During the first British Occupation of the Transvaal (1877-1881), Daniel was appointed by the government to the position of Auditor-General.
Mrs Kisch spent the duration of the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1881) in England, accompanied by the couple’s two children, Charles and Edith.
Patent and trade mark interests
The firm distinguished itself as a company of patent and trade mark agents, filing its first patent applications under Act 6 of 1887, De Octrooi Wet (The Patents Act) as DM Kisch, South African Patent & Trade Mark Agents.
The firm registered some notable patents, including one filed on behalf of Dr Werner von Siemens, one on behalf of Thomas Alva Edison and one for Guglielmo Marconi. DM Kisch also acted in South Africa’s first legal case involving a patent when he represented Dr Von Siemens regarding an invention relating to the separation of gold by means of electricity.
Since the late 1800s the firm has secured patent and trade mark rights for some of the most important inventions and brands of the last 140 years.
Engineering projects and roles
In 1888, Daniel wrote to the Secretary of State, applying for the position of Ingenieur van Electrische Werken en Verlichting (Engineer of Electrical Works and Lighting) of the South African Republic.
He had already undertaken engineering projects in Pretoria during the 1870s and by now was the owner of the Pretoria Engineering Works.
Charles Kisch takes the reins
In 1894 Daniel’s son, Charles Herbert Moses, joined his father’s firm. Unfortunately, Daniel’s health deteriorated and, en route to Europe for medical treatment, he died on board the steamer Umhloti. He was 58 years old.
Daniel’s businesses in Johannesburg and Pretoria were left to Charles. After the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), Charles closed the Pretoria office and the firm began to concentrate on intellectual property law from its new head office located in the Victoria Building in Johannesburg.
During the period between 1903 and 1912, WE John and AL Spoor joined the firm, which was managed by Spoor from 1914 to 1918 while Charles fought in World War I. In 1922 Spoor resigned to establish his own firm and the following year John also resigned to do the same. In 1928 RW Blackstock, a British patent agent from Fitzpatrick & Co., entered the firm’s employ.
Peter Kisch enters the business
At age 35, Charles married Gwendolyn McDonald Hunter in London. They had three children: Kenneth Neil (Peter), Ursula Mary and Brian Michael.
In 1933, DM Kisch & Co was appointed Patent Consultant to the Union Steel Corporation Limited, the South African Iron and Steel Industrial Corporation (ISCOR), and Stewards & Lloyds Limited.
Peter Kisch graduated from London University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1933, returning to South Africa to join the firm. He qualified as a patent agent two years later and was appointed as a partner in 1938.
On the outbreak of World War II, Peter joined the Royal Air Force and served as a pilot from 1939 to 1945, attaining the rank of squadron leader.
During Peter’s absence, CP (Chris) van der Walt joined the firm as draughtsman. He was the first Afrikaans-speaking person to qualify as a patent agent and became a partner in the firm in 1950. In 1945, after returning from the war, Peter assumed full control of the firm.
Charles Kisch passed away in 1947 at the age of 72 and Peter became the senior partner of the firm – a position he held until his retirement in 1971.
At the time the firm was already acting for major clients, both locally and internationally, having handled trade mark registrations for illustrious companies like Dunlop, Royal Baking Powder, White Horse and Levi Strauss.
New partners and incorporation
In 1954 Dux Truter joined the firm to train as a patent agent and Dennis Greyvensteyn joined to take control of the Trade Mark Department. Some years later, AC (Adrian) Couzyn joined the firm to train as a patent agent, and CG (Peter) Rattray, a qualified patent agent and attorney, became a partner.
A few years later Dennis Greyvensteyn, Dux Truter and Adrian Couzyn became partners. In 1971 Peter Kisch retired, ending the Kisch family’s control of the firm, which had spanned almost 97 years.
Peter Rattray, who took over from Peter Kisch as senior partner of the firm, remained in that position until his retirement from active practice in 1984.
In 1968, a branch of the firm was re-opened in Pretoria by Johan Lamprecht.
In 1976 DM Kisch & Co., Patent and Trade Mark Agents, became a partnership of attorneys and in 1979 it incorporated and changed its name to DM Kisch Inc, with Peter Rattray as the first Chairman of the Board.
On Rattray’s retirement, he was succeeded by Dux Truter. Subsequent Chairmen were Johan Lamprecht, Reinhard le Roux and Derek Momberg. Adelhart Krűger is the present Chairman of the Board of KISCH IP.
2015: Corporate re-branding
In 2015 DM Kisch Inc re-branded as KISCH IP. The firm continues to be known for the specialist capabilities and expertise of its 18 skilled partners and more than 110 dedicated support staff, for its activities across Africa and for its worldwide representation via a network of dedicated agents. It has offices in Sandton and Pretoria, and a satellite office in Cape Town.