Traditional knowledge has been used, and is increasingly being used, in a wide range of industries for the development of new products. Increasing awareness of the economic value of biological diversity has resulted in industries seeking to exploit traditional knowledge and biodiversity through opportunistic behaviour (biopiracy). This is also happening in South Africa, where numerous industries are developing new products. Recent advances in the field of biotechnology have created the need for greater intellectual property rights protection. The protection of traditional knowledge has however long been ignored as developed nations and large industries have sought to promote self-serving systems of protection. In this paper the example of an indigenous medicinal plant is used to analyse and describe the extent to which patent and trademark protection is able to protect traditional ethno-botanical knowledge in South Africa. The study therefore aims to contribute to an understanding of the value that traditional knowledge holds for the sustainable development and economic growth of communities, and how such knowledge can be protected.