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Foodsphere found liable for unfair competition in 'Battle of the Hams'.

Byline: Tetch Torres-Tupas

MANILA -- The Court of Appeals affirmed the findings of the Office of the Director General of the Intellectual Property Office (ODGIPO) that a company, maker of popular ham product is liable for unfair competition.

In a 24page decision, the Court of Appeals 14th division, through Associate Justice Amy LazaroJavier, denied the appeal filed by Foodsphere which questions the 2013 findings made by the ODGIPO that it is liable for unfair competition.

Foodshpere is engaged in the manufacture, sale and distribution of canned and frozen meat products bearing the "CDO" brand, including traditional and Christmas hams.

The ODGIPO held that while Foodsphere did not commit trademark infringement, it should be held liable for unfair competition by giving its product, Pista Ham" the general appearance that would likely influence purchasers that it is similar with San Miguel Purefoods Company Inc.'s (SMPFCI) ham. SMPFCI is engaged in the manufacture, sale and distribution of food and owns the trademark "Purefoods Fiesta Ham."

ODGIPO directed Foodshpere to compensate SMPFCI in the amount of P400,000 as nominal damages and attorneys' fees. It also directed the seizure of all labels, signs, prints, packages, wrappers and other materials used by Foodsphere in committing unfair competition.

The case stemmed from the complaint for trademark infringement and unfair competition filed by SMPFCI against Foodsphere.

In its complaint, it insisted that Foodsphere should be held liable for infringing its intellectual property rights for using promotional materials and packaging that are similar with its own products.

Due to the striking similarity of the competing marks, SMPFCI said Foodsphere will mislead consumers.

The appeals court, in its ruling said the case has all the elements to constitute unfair competition such as the packaging of both Foodsphere"s "Pista Ham" and SMPFCI's "Fiesta Ham."

The appeals court added that "Pista" and "Fiesta" hams are sold in supermarkets nationwide, especially around Christmas time.

"The striking similarity in the general appearances of both brands could lead to confusion and result in a buyer purchasing one ham, instead of the other," the appeals court said.

"That single, brief moment of confusion due to similarity in the general appearance of the competing goods is enough to cause liability for unfair competition," it added.

Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Mariflor Punzalan Castillo and Zenaida GalapateLaguilles.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Oct 6, 2014
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