THE Court of Appeals ruled that San Miguel Corporation, makers of the world-famous San Miguel Beer, has no exclusive right to use the term “Ginebra” for its gin products.
The CA’s Third Division turned down a petition filed by SMC seeking a reversal of the ruling issued by the Bureau of Trademarks that held that “Ginebra,” which means “gin” in English, is a generic term incapable of appropriation of exclusivity.
The appellate court affirmed the bureau’s assertion that under the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines, a mark cannot be registered if it consists exclusively of signs that are generic for the goods and services subject of the application.
The assailed ruling held that under the doctrine of foreign equivalents, a mark that is generic in a foreign language is still unregistrable even if the language is not predominantly spoken in the country where registration is sought.
Besides, the CA said, the petition failed to satisfy the most important requirement in applying for the registration of a trademark, which is exclusivity.
The CA noted, other manufacturers of gin and other alcoholic beverages like Tanduay Distillers, Inc., Twin ace Holding Corporation, Consolidated Distillers of the Far East, Inc. and Webengton Distillery (Philippines) Inc., had similarly used the mark “Ginebra” as part of the composite marks for their products.
Thus, the CA added, it is obvious that the buying public associate “Ginebra” with gin products in general and distinguish them based on the marks on the label of their bottles.
The Court said it is unlikely that the buying public will be confused despite the proliferation of various gin products as they buy by brand and according to their taste.
La Tondeña Distillers Inc., now known as Ginebra San Miguel, Inc. (GSM), claimed that the term “Ginebra” has become distinctive by its extensive, consistent and continuous use as the dominant feature of its gin products, thus, it has preferential and superior right to use the trademark to the exclusion of other beverage companies.
But the SC said GSM failed to establish that it has exclusive right over the use of the word “Ginebra” because of Tanduay’s claim that it has, as others have, also registered the word “Ginebra” for its gin products.(JCV/Sunnex)