Credit goes to WIPO
There are two vital ingredients in any entrepreneur’s recipe for success: passion and perseverance.
Sonia Feki, founder of the HABIBA jewellery brand, has an unusual background. With a master’s degree in financial management from the Institut Supérieur de Gestion, she first worked in the banking and real estate sectors, then in distribution. Drawing on her experience in distribution, Sonia Feki decided to put this experience to work on a Tunisian range of luxury jewelry and accessories. It’s a dream she’s had for some time, and above all a message of love to a mother.
Habiba, Sonia’s mother, was a masterful woman, meticulous and precious, who valued Tunisian craftsmanship on a daily basis, passing on her love of fine local work.
Revisiting and magnifying Tunisian craftsmanship are at the heart of the brand. HABIBA jewellery is the embodiment of the “made in Tunisia” label and of the beauty that enhances women’s femininity.“It has been an exciting adventure”, says Sonia Feki, as she recalls the journey that has brought “HABIBA Jewellery” to the covers of well-known lifestyle magazines in Northern Africa.
After Habiba died in 2016, Sonia felt the need to tell her mother’s story to the world, so that her message could live on. The vivid memory of the colorful, lavish gemstones her mother used to wear so elegantly inspired Sonia to found her own jewelry brand, named after this key figure in her life.
Sonia knew from the start that, to set her artisan jewelry apart from her competitors’, she needed to develop a branded story, built on values and emotions.
Creativity dominated the company’s first year of activity. Sonia set up her own atelier and dived straight into the creation of new collections.
With no previous training in jewelry craft and design, she recruited four local artisans and travelled through France and Italy – attending major international events such as Bijorhca and Vicenzaoro – as well as within Tunisia, in search of unique gemstones. HABIBA Jewellery’s creations are handmade with prominent and brightly colored stones endowed with therapeutic properties, and embroidered with pearls.
During those first twelve months, Sonia and her team did not sell – or even reveal – a single jewel; they invested all their resources into building a solid foundation for the brand, developing their products and protecting their intellectual property (IP) rights.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, it seemed that the chances of HABIBA Jewellery becoming an international brand grew slimmer each day.
The company had built up a considerable stock of luxury goods that – due to the economic crisis raging in Tunisia – was becoming increasingly difficult to sell. There was no longer enough demand on the Tunisian market to absorb Sonia’s supplies.
So, against all the odds, and regardless of business experts’ cynicism, Sonia – who so firmly believed in her dream – opened an international franchise chain. And she had good reason to do so!
HABIBA’s signature jewels quickly started to turn heads outside of Tunisia. The brand spontaneously caught the attention of Egyptian media outlets, raising awareness in the Gulf countries. And, demand grew in other African countries.
It was time for Sonia to protect her trademark internationally.
International trademark protection made easy
When she started to enquire about ways to protect HABIBA Jewellery in foreign markets, trademark specialists at INNORPI directed Sonia straight to WIPO’s international trademark system – the Madrid System.
Using her national trademark as its basis, Sonia would be able to file a single international trademark application – in one language and with just one set of fees payable in one currency (Swiss francs) – to seek protection in most African and Middle-Eastern countries, as well as other markets around the globe, accounting for 80% of world trade!
She filed an application in 2022. Knowing that she could expand protection to other countries in the future, Sonia started by designating – and gaining protection in – two Madrid System members: Egypt, and the African Organization of Intellectual Property (OAPI), covering 16 French-speaking countries in the region.
Guaranteeing protection of the HABIBA Jewellery’s product range
HABIBA Jewellery has the potential to be about more than just jewelry – it could represent a whole, wearable lifestyle. It is only natural that customers would be interested in additional branded products to complete their outfits, helping them to become a vehicle of everything the brand stands for: elegance, resilience and durability.
So, having originally requested protection in only one class of goods and services – Class 14 (jewelry, precious stones; timepieces and chronometric instruments) – Sonia is already planning to file another international application in order to expand her business into new classes and product categories such as textiles and leather goods, which are typical of the Maghreb region.
The goods and services that you select when filing an application for an international trademark registration must match those covered by your national trademark; the scope of protection can be narrower, but not broader. If later you want to obtain international protection in additional classes of goods and services, you will need first to file a new national application at your home IP Office!
Expanding international trademark protection to new countries
Sonia is determined to expand into even more overseas markets, and plans to designate other Madrid System Members in the near future:
- France, where large communities from the Maghreb region live. Wearing HABIBA’s jewels would be a way for them to reconnect with their roots.
- The United States of America, where the brand received praise from professional fashion designers during a fashion show in New York in 2016.
- Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where HABIBA’s collections meet the tastes of customers. Although Saudi Arabia is not a member of the Madrid System yet, it will likely join in 2024!
Tip! The Madrid System Members that you designate when you file an application for international trademark protection are not set in stone. You can always expand protection of your trademark to include other Madrid System Members using our Subsequent Designation service under eMadrid.
The Madrid System is flexible! You can adapt your global trademark protection strategy to suit your budget and your market needs. And, new countries are joining all the time, opening up new markets for you.
Protecting the brand internationally – HABIBA Jewellery’s top priority
Facing the future with confidence
Having successfully leveraged the Madrid System to protect her trademark abroad, Sonia was in a position to face the challenges ahead with a calm state of mind.
I feel confident, even when I am threatened by competitors.
Having my trademark protected in Tunisia and my other main selling markets is a guarantee, not only for me, but for my franchisees as well.
It is the only way we can prevent other companies from making our ideas their own, or from taking advantage of the reputation we have worked so hard to build from the ground up.
Having a long-term vision was Sonia Feki’s secret to success.
When I founded HABIBA Jewellery, I projected myself 15 years into the future. Protecting my trademark – first nationally and then internationally – was one of my top priorities.
After seven years of activity, the company’s team has grown to 15 people working in three different departments: product development, logistics and digital marketing. The brand has concept stores in Cairo and branches in the Ivory Coast – one of OAPI’s Member States – and Sonia is planning to open another in the United States of America.
Preserving Tunisian artisanship and empowering women
The courage to dream
Sonia Feki has already achieved so much!
When I founded HABIBA Jewellery I wanted to invest in local artisans’ training, and guarantee them a fair wage. I am happy to say that 90% of our employees are women.
Last year, the Council of the Commission of the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) named her “Ambassador of Arab women” to reward her efforts to protect women’s rights to work. But the entrepreneur aims to reach even greater heights. Sonia’s dream for the near future? To open a “Habiba Foundation” to promote and preserve Tunisian creativity and artisanship.