House Speaker Ends Trademark Saga

The winner of the court battle was denied a copy of the judgement for 10 months

Keriya Ibrahim, the Speaker of the House of Federation, has concluded the four-year trademark proprietorship saga by handing the copy of the judgment to the lawyer of Six Continents Hotel, Mehrteab Leul & Associates, the party that won the court battle.

Mehrteab Leul & Associates, as the legal representative of the hotel, received the copy of the judgment early last week, 10 months after the House made the favourable decision for the Hotel. However, the law firm was denied a copy of the ruling by the legal department of the House, insisting that the hotel, not the legal representative, make an appearance to receive the document.

The case started when Six Continents requested the Intellectual Property Office to register Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resort as a trademark. The Hotel sought the registration following its franchising agreement with Tsemex Hotels & Business Plc to open Crowne Plaza Addis in a 11-storey building located on Liberia Street in Lideta District.

The Industrial Invention Protection Directorate of the office rejected its request, claiming that the trademark is too similar to Crown Hotel, another establishment located in Qality District and owned by Zewditu Mesfin. However, that decision was overturned by a tribunal of the office, which ruled that the move of denying the trademark will close opportunities for foreign direct investments.

Zewditu was displeased with the tribunal’s decision and appealed to the High Court. The Court upheld the decision of the tribunal with the justification that there are differences in the colours and symbols used to represent the two trademarks. Later, the Supreme Court overruled the High Court’s decision stating that the brands must be protected as their co-existence could create confusion.

This ruling forced Six Continents to take the case to the House, which referred it to the Council of the Constitutional Inquiry. The Council, consisting of 10 legal professionals, reviewed the case and recommended that the House approve the co-existence of the two trademarks asserting that restricting the trademark only to the local investor could discourage foreign direct investment.

Based on the recommendation of the Council, the House repealed the ruling of the Cassation Bench of the Supreme Court, which had ruled in favour of Zewditu. However, the document of the House’s ruling was not given to Six Continents and Tsemex. Tsemex did not show interest in collecting the copy of the judgement, as it has already pulled out of the deal with Six Continents and signed another franchising agreement with Accor Hotels to bring MGallery by Sofitel Hotels.

However, the legal department of the House headed by Muluye Welelaw refused to hand the copy of the judgement to Mehrteab Leul & Associates, stating that the ruling could be handed to Six Continents and Tsemex only.

As Six Continents or Tsemex did not appear to collect the document, the Directorate returned the document to the House citing that the parties have failed to collect it for half a year. A month and a half ago, the law firm filed a complaint directly to the Speaker of the House, claiming that it was illegally denied the copy of the legal documents.

“We were illegally denied the ability to collect the documents by the legal department of the House stating that Six Continents itself has to appear at the House to accept the document,” read the letter submitted by Mehrteab Leul & Associates in June.

Keriya, who has been reviewing the case for the past few weeks, finally decided to give the document to the law firm.

“This is a clear indication that the rule of law is coming back in this country,” Mehrteab, principal of Mehrteab Leul & Associates, said.

Ankita Chopra, communications manager of Six Continents’ subsidiary, InterContinental Hotels Group, the operator of Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resort, did not respond to the email enquiry from Fortunebefore the paper was sent to print.


Published on Jul 28,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 952]



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