Court battles on trademark and brand infringements are continuously on the increase after two more foreign companies, Minintco Ltd and Dresoceco Ltd, have gone to court over a hair-dye product dispute.
The plaintiff, Minintco Ltd, an Indian company, is suing Dresoceco Ltd, a Chinese manufacturer, for breach of intellectual property rights and called for seizure and destruction of its products.
Populary known as ‘Kanta’, the black hair-dye mostly used to tint graying hair is alleged to have been pirated by Dresoseco to cause confusion on the market.
The case is before Nyarugenge Commercial Court and the two products in dispute involve ‘Kanta Brand’ by Minintco versus ‘Wild Olive Brand’ by Dresoceco.
Early last month, the Minitco called on Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) to seize 200 cartons of the product imported by Dresoceco, before circulation on the market citing breach of intellectual property rights.
While the customs department had seized the products in question, the law says that such a decision cannot exceed 20 days before a court decision determining the fate of the seized products.
The court decision would then either allow the product to be sold on the market and or be destroyed.
“Before we go into the first hearing, we had petitioned the court to decide on our emergency application not to let products out of the customs because the 20 days seizure period had almost elapsed,” Jean Nepomuscene Mugengangabo, representing Minintco said, during hearing last week.
He called for an extension period of the seizure, a submission that defendants objected, saying it did not favour fair competition.
Protogene Kananga and Felix Mutarindwa, lawyers representing the defendant, objected saying the court was not competent to adjudicate the case neither was the appellant qualified to sue their company.
“Since some of the penalties attracted on this case involve a jail-term on top of a fine, we believe that this case should be criminal instead of civil. We therefore think this court is incompetent to handle it,” said Mutarindwa.
“The appellant in this case has no legal rights whatsoever to sue our company, because his credentials allow him representation alone. Let ‘Kanta’ the company, file the legal suit, not the licensed agent here,” argued Kananga.
The two lawyers further argued that it would be very unfair if one brand of a product was only allowed on the market in a country that advocates for a liberal economy and free trade.
On the other hand, the appellant argued that by all means the commercial court had full legitimacy to try cases relating to intellectual property as long as they relate to civil matters which call for civil reparations.
Mugengangabo further informed the court that he had petitioned in the capacity of the owner of the trademark whose businesses are legally registered by the Rwanda Development Board.
The case continues this week.