Trademark Dispute Remains Uncertain Yet

The legal representative of Six Continents, Mehrteab Leul & Associates, requested the copy of the judgment again

The trademark proprietorship saga, which has lingered over the past four years, continues as the lawyer for Six Continents Hotel, the entity denied to get a copy of a judgment document, has lodged another complaint with the new Speaker of the House, Keriya Ibrahim.

The Hotel, through its legal representative Mehrteab Leul & Associates (MLA), has sent a letter to the Speaker of the House appealing that she orders the legal department of the House to provide MLA with a copy of the judgment. In its letter, MLA has alluded that it was denied the copy of the judgment without any legal foundation. The legal department of the House refused to give the copy of the ruling to the law firm stating that the Hotel itself, not a representative, has to appear at the House to accept the document.

The case started when Six Continents requested the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to register Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resort, following its franchising agreement with Tsemex Hotels & Business Plc. The Industrial Invention Protection Directorate of the IPO rejected the request claiming that the trademark is too similar to that of Crown Hotel’s, located in Kality and owned by Zewditu Mesfin. However, that decision was soon overturned by a tribunal of the Office after it determined that it will close opportunities for foreign direct investment (FDI).

Zewditu, who was displeased with the tribunal’s decision, appealed to the High Court. The Court upheld the decision with the justification that there are differences in the colours and symbols used to represent the two trademarks. Later, the High Court’s ruling was overruled by the Supreme Court stating that the brands must be protected as their co-existence could create confusion. This ruling forced Six Continents, represented by Mehrteab Leul, to take the case to the House where the case was reviewed by the Council of the Constitutional Inquiry (CCI).

The Council, consisting of 10 legal professionals, reviewed the case and recommended to the House the co-existence of the two trademarks asserting that restricting the trademark only to the local investor could discourage foreign direct investment. Following this, the House ordered the ruling made by the Cassation Bench of the Supreme Court to be repealed. Hence, the copy of the ruling was not collected by the applicant, Tsemex or Mehrteab Leul.

Three months ago, Muluye Welelaw, the legal director of the House, told Fortunethat the ruling could be handed to the local franchiser of the Hotel and Six Continents only.

Last year, as the court battle between the duo dragged on, Tsemex pulled out of the deal with Six Continents and signed another franchising agreement with Accor Hotels to bring MGallery by Sofitel Hotels to its 11-storey building located on Liberia Street in Lideta District. Thus, Tsemex did not show interest to collect the copy of the judgement and Mehrteab Leul was denied to receive the copy.

Later, the legal directorate of the House returned the document to the Speaker of the House citing that the parties have failed to collect it for half a year.

For Liku Worku, a law practitioner and investment consultant, the Houses’ decision in refusing to provide the copy of the judgment to Mehrteab Leul is not justifiable.

“As long as the law firm has been representing the Hotel in the legal proceedings, it derives to get the copy of the judgement,” he said. “The decision could have been withheld if the law firm does not have a power of attorney to receive the copy of the document.”

Keriya Ibrahim, the Speaker of the House, confirmed to Fortunethat she has not made any decision over the issue yet.

“I’m reviewing the issue, focusing on whether the House made the right decision in denying the copy judgment to the Law Firm,” she told Fortune.

Mihertab declined to comment on the issue citing his non-disclosure agreement with his client, Six Continents.


Published on Jun 24,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 948]



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