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NVAP to cigar makers: Follow GHW law, too

MANILA — The New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) is reminding cigar makers that they are also covered by the Graphic Health Warnings (GHW) Law, which is set to be fully implemented on Nov. 4, this year.

Cigarette (By Paolo Neo via Wikimedia Commons) mb.com.ph Cigarette (By Paolo Neo via Wikimedia Commons) mb.com.ph

According to NVAP President Emer Rojas, cigarette products are not the only ones covered by Republic Act No. 10643 but also other tobacco products available in the country.

“Cigar makers are also sternly reminded to follow the existing GHW Law as they are also covered by it. They have to put picture-based warnings on the hazardous effects of smoking cigars,” Rojas, an engineer, said.

Under R.A. 10643, all tobacco products packaging available in the country must bear GHWs as well as an accompanying textual warning that is related to the picture.

The law defines tobacco products as those entirely or partly made of leaf tobacco as raw material, are manufactured to be used for smoking, sucking, chewing, or snuffing, or by any other means of consumption.

“While cigars may not be as popular in the country as cigarettes, its threat to one’s health is equally high and could also lead to similar smoking-related illnesses,” warned Rojas.

Cigars are products made up of a single type of air-cured or dried tobacco, are larger than cigarettes, and do not have filters.

It is also found to contain a higher level of nicotine than cigarettes and is absorbed through the lungs as quickly as it is with cigarettes.

Studies have shown that cigar smoking, like cigarette smoking, is linked to cancers of the mouth, lips, tongue, throat, larynx, lung, pancreas, and bladder cancer, as well as gum disease, and sexual impotence in men.

Aside from cigars, other tobacco-based products are bidis, kreteks, and smokeless tobaccos (chewable and snuffed).

As provided by the law, by Nov. 4, 2016, all tobacco product packages sold and distributed in the country must have the prescribed GHWs, which are placed in the lower 50 percent of both sides of the packages.

Last March, the country already started implementing the first phase of the law’s implementation, wherein tobacco manufacturers are already prohibited from coming out with cigarette packs that are without picture health warnings.

The law, however, provides an additional eight-month period for tobacco firms and retailers to exhaust old stocks that only bear the old text-only warnings.

Rojas called on all stakeholders to do their part in ensuring the effective implementation of the GHW Law.

He said the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (IAC-T) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) must strictly do their part in monitoring the compliance of the tobacco industry as well as address complaints of violations.

“IAC-T should monitor compliance with the law and institute the appropriate action for any violation upon any sworn written complaint while the DTI shall hear complaints filed by the IAC-T or any private citizen,” stressed Rojas.

On the other hand, the NVAP head said the public must not hesitate in reporting non-compliant manufacturers or distributors or sellers of tobacco product packages that are without GHWs once the full implementation started to roll or by Nov. 4.

“Hinihiling ko po ang suporta ng ating mamamayan upang maisakatuparan ang ninanais ng Graphic Health Warning Law na maiwasan ang pagdami ng mga addict sa ‘yosi’ sa ating bayan,” said Rojas.

In the Philippines, an estimated 10 individuals die every hour due to smoking-related diseases.

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Tech experts warn anti-Airbnb law will hurt New York businesses


ALBANY – Tech industry experts fear a new anti-Airbnb law will hurt New York’s ability to attract high-tech businesses.


The measure signed into law by Gov. Cuomo last week comes on the heels of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft losing their bid this year to expand upstate.


Also, online fantasy sports betting sites like FanDuel, DraftKings and Yahoo temporally shut down in New York after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued them. They are now back in business after the Legislature passed legislation in June that legalized and regulated such sites.


“It is absolutely an issue of concern that New York is gaining an anti-tech reputation,” said Julie Samuels, executive director of Tech:NYC, an advocacy group. “That would be incredibly unfortunate. But when you see legislation pass that makes it very difficult for firms to operate here, it definitely sends a message we think will make it harder to attract tech talent and tech entrepreneurs.”

Airbnb to file suit after Cuomo signs threatening bill


She said there’s nothing wrong with the state trying to regulate a new technology like home-sharing. But she said it could have been done in a more comprehensive and reasonable way. Samuels said that still can happen.


The anti-Airbnb bill signed into law by Cuomo on Friday prohibits advertising illegal units on online home-sharing sites and imposes fines of up to $7,500 per violation. Airbnb has sued to block the law.


Airbnb officials blamed entrenched interests, notably the hotel industry and its politically-influential worker union, for putting up the roadblocks.


Neal Kwatra, a strategist for the ShareBetter coalition made up of unions, elected officials, and housing and tenant activists that successfully pushed the anti-Airbnb bill, and others deny New York is hostile to new economy tech companies. Kwatra said companies like FanDuel, BuzzFeed, Vox Media, and WeWork are thriving in New York City.

James and McKee: Airbnb is a disease; we have the cure


Sources also said they expect the Legislature in 2017 will authorize Uber and Lyft to expand to upstate cities.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

The measure signed into law by Gov. Cuomo comes on the heels of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft losing their bid this year to expand upstate.

(Marcus Santos/New York Daily News)


“Airbnb sounds and acts a lot like Donald Trump these days,” Kwatra said. “Both say everything is biased and rigged against them and they both sue anyone and everyone who tries to hold them accountable for breaking the law.”


Kwatra said Airbnb is not only fighting with New York but has also sued San Francisco, Berlin and Barcelona.


“Airbnb has created a new class of victimhood-the beleaguered $30 billion corporation who screams bias whenever they are asked to follow the law,” he said.

The great Airbnb crackdown


ShareBetter has a new ad it will run for a week starting Monday on broadcast and cable television accusing Airbnb of saying it wants to help the middle class while actually hurting the availability of affordable housing units in the city while also driving up rents “to nearly twice the city average.”. It’s also set to unleash a digital ad campaign thanking Cuomo for signing the bill.


The TV airtime was originally purchased before Cuomo, who had until this coming Friday to sign or veto the bill, signed the measure last week.


The ShareBetter coalition kept the ad up knowing the issue is not going away, particularly after the company filed a legal challenge Friday, a source said.


Airbnb spokesman Peter Schottenfels shot back that “while various editorial boards and objective experts have all agreed that this was a backroom deal where New York’s middle class was given the bum’s rush by some of the state’s most powerful special interests, it is in fact Share Better – a front group for the hotel cartel – that is actually representing Donald Trump’s properties.”

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Why firms should go back to the drawing board in fourth quarter

The fourth quarter presents an opportunity for businesses to review performance during the year. PHOTO | FILE 

We are in the last quarter of 2016. Many organisations are looking into their plans for the year to analyse what they achieved and others are wisely training sights on 2017.


One of the main elements of a strategic plan is a legal SWOT test, which is an evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats existing in the legal environment.


The importance of such an analysis would be for the firm to take advantage of the favourable conditions to enable it meet its goals while avoiding the unfavourable conditions as much as possible.


When analysing the opportunities that a firm has in the legal environment a few factors need to be taken into account.


First is the new laws or government policies that are favourable to the business. If there are any, then the firm must plan its strategy in such a way as to take full advantage of them.


A new legislation in the firm’s sector would be welcome as it would guide players to take full advantage of the changes. It is important for a firm to acquaint itself with any potential law that would affect its operations.


Are there any new Bills that have been drafted? Is there any new government policy in the pipeline that might favour the company’s strategy?


A regional business has to consider the opportunities presented by each host country, when making its strategic plan.


Sometimes it might be forced to shift to a different country simply because the chosen country’s legal environment is more favourable.


A firm must also look at the threats in the legal environment when making its strategic plan. One of the threats, which is sometimes ignored, is the introduction of new laws that might be unfavourable or could impact greatly on operations.


Sometimes a new law could make a firm reconsider doing business in the host country. Similarly, repealing a favourable law would impact a business’s operations. This affects the firm’s strategy and operations.


The firm’s internal strengths legally, should also be analysed and upheld. Some examples of strengths would be the existence of a legal and compliance department or a legal officer.


The very fact that there exists qualified personnel handling the firm’s compliance issues gives the firm a better image to its stakeholders, which include the government.


The firm’s weaknesses legally should also be analysed and efforts made to address them, for example, any pending law suits.


The business needs to take a thorough and honest analysis of its weaknesses and formulate ways to reduce them.


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$11.42 ATM quibble sparks class-action lawsuit under consumer friendly B.C. law

Eric Finkel noticed something awry when he withdrew cash from an ATM while travelling in Cambodia in 2012 and early 2013.

He knew Canadian and U.S. dollars were trading close to par, so he was surprised by the transaction noted on his account — the exchange rate didn’t add up.

There was a 2.3 per cent difference, leaving him short $11.42. 

He wanted to understand why. So he wrote to Coast Capital, his credit union, for clarification.

In a series of responses, the credit union blamed the exchange rate.

“The exchange rate used on ATM machines is calculated by the bank who owns the machine,” said the credit union in one email, never admitting there was a service charge.

But Finkel wouldn’t let it go.

He pushed until he found out the real reason why he was charged that $11.42 — it was a percentage surcharge on foreign currency withdrawals, in addition to a $5 fee.

Shrinking money us

There is a growing number of class action lawsuits aimed at ‘deep pocket’ industries for hidden or ‘deceptive’ service charges. (Frankleleon/Flickr)

The credit union never explained. Finkel had to do the math himself.

Finkel, a consumer advocate, decided to launch a class action lawsuit.

His lawyer launched legal action under a little-tested section of B.C.’s Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (BPCPA).

The lawsuit says this was a breach of contract and a deceptive act or practice contrary to the BPCP Act.

“Coast Capital’s account agreement did not disclose any percentage surcharge,” reads the judgment by Justice David Masuhara, who approved the certification of Finkel’s class-action lawsuit.

Coast Capital denied committing any wrongs and characterized Finkel’s action as a “procedural weapon of mass destruction,” adding that the case is devoid of an “air of reality.”

But it has turned into something quite real that has caught the attention of legal experts.

Commercial litigator Alexandra Cocks, a member of the National Class Actions Group at McCarthy Tétrault, notes a growing trend of companies targeted in class actions over fees charged that are not adequately disclosed, using a section of the BPCP Act. 

Canadian Money

Class-action lawsuits are on the rise in B.C. (KMR Photography/Flickr)

“This section of the act is relatively recent in terms of litigation,” she said.

“Because the act is considered to be very consumer friendly, and that particular section of the act is worded broadly, I think it’s being viewed by plaintiff class action firms as a fruitful area for litigation.” 

The Finkel case is one of dozens that pop up in a search of “deceptive practices” under the BPCPA, most aimed at “deep pocket” industries such as banks or insurance companies for hidden or “deceptive” service charges..

If Finkel wins, he won’t get much — just all the surcharges he paid unwittingly on any foreign exchange withdrawals. 

But so will anybody else who withdrew foreign currencies. That could add up to millions, fast.

“Class actions are concerning to all companies who may face them because they are claims by multiple people at once and the stakes can be high,” said Cocks.

As of September  2015, the credit union posts the per cent-based service charge and notes that there may be other charges.

The credit union is also appealing the class-action certification, which is set to be heard in February of 2017.

Cambodian bank machine

Two transactions at a Cambodian bank machine launched questions over $11.42 in mysterious service charges. (Alex Drainville/Flickr)

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Watch out for firms ‘disguising’ retrenchments, warns NTUC

SINGAPORE — Some had their contracts terminated without clear explanation — just before their firms moved overseas. Others were let go because they did not meet their performance targets. Or so they were told.

But investigations later show that they are actually disquieting examples of “disguised retrenchments”, a trend the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is concerned about, such that its assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay raised the matter in Parliament last month.

He had called on the Government to pay more attention to the issue for a better reflection of layoff numbers.

Speaking to TODAY last week, Mr Tay, who is also a Member of Parliament for West Coast GRC, said he was unhappy about such veiled layoffs because firms get away with not having to pay workers retrenchment benefits.

It also allows them to avoid bad press or business repercussions if the word gets out. Hence, they axe staff but “don’t say it’s (a) redundancy”, Mr Tay said.

Right now, firms do not have to notify the Government of any forthcoming retrenchment exercises, but are encouraged to do so.

Retrenchment benefits are not mandatory under the law, and the quantum hinges on agreements between employers and employees. Quantums are to be negotiated between the two parties if no provisions are made.

Mr Tay said that, lately, the labour movement’s U PME Centre, which helps professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), is seeing a rising number of one particular type of disguised retrenchment.

This would be workers whose contracts are terminated at one month’s notice — generally permissible under provisions in employment contracts — by firms shedding headcount. These workers did not get retrenchment benefits.

In the past year, the centre handled between 15 and 20 such cases, all in non-unionised firms, compared with fewer than 10 the year before, a trend that corresponds with the increasing number of layoffs, Mr Tay said.

The Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) latest labour-market report last month showed that layoffs for the first half of this year vaulted to 9,510, the highest since 2009.

In other instances, workers are asked to resign voluntarily when firms wade into troubled times. The companies claim that terminating them “doesn’t look good on you”.

In cases where contracts are terminated with poor performance cited as a reason, a tell-tale sign of a disguised retrenchment is when the poor performance rating comes abruptly on the back of consistently good ratings.

Last month, the U PME Centre helped a senior professional in a large non-unionised firm claim retrenchment benefits after a tussle of nearly two months, Mr Tay disclosed.

Mary (not her real name), 45, had approached the NTUC in July after her firm discontinued the project she was working on. A shift in company strategy meant that her role ceased to exist.

Affected staff were given two options: Secure another internal role or accept a retrenchment package if they could not land one. She was also told to hunt for work externally owing to the difficult economic situation.

After landing two job offers, one of which was within the company, Mary chose the other job at another company, which offered bigger responsibilities.

She was later told, however, that she would not receive a retrenchment package since she was offered an internal role, and was to resign. The worker was not told about this policy and felt it was unfair, the NTUC said.

Workers at non-unionised firms tend to be more vulnerable. Mr Tay said unionised firms would consult their unions as provided for in the collective agreement between firms and unions.

The norm is to do this a month before employees are notified of a retrenchment exercise. Retrenchment benefits usually work out at one month’s wage for each year of service.

But workers in non-unionised firms risk being left to flounder, even though individuals who are union members could still seek help through the tripartite mediation framework.

Recourse aside from civil action is limited. Workers could turn to the unfair-dismissal provisions in the Employment Act, but this covers only those earning up to S$4,500 a month.

The new Employment Claims Tribunals, which will, from April, hear salary-related disputes for all workers, regardless of income, may close this gap, but even this avenue is “useless” if employment contracts are silent on retrenchment benefits, said Mr Tay.

Workers must therefore ensure that such benefits are spelt out in their contracts before signing on the dotted line, he urged.

The Tripartite Guidelines on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment offer guidance on responsible retrenchment practices, such as retrenchment benefits.

For instance, employees who have worked in a firm for two years or longer should be eligible for retrenchment benefits, while those with less than two years’ service could be granted an ex-gratia payment.

The prevailing norm is to pay benefits of between two weeks’ and one month’s wage for every year worked, depending on the firm’s financial position and industry norms.

Mr Tay also said that notifying the ministry of retrenchment exercises should be made mandatory, so help can be offered to workers.

Reiterating that employers should be responsible when laying off staff, he added: “Be fair, responsible, follow the Tripartite Guidelines … (and) do it in a responsible manner.”

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Low interest rates are killing health care insurance firms

Big health-care insurance firms are struggling to find a profit in this low-interest-rate environment, which is a cause for concern for opponents of the doctor-assisted suicide movement that is gaining momentum in the US, including New Jersey.

It is a tough market in general for insurance underwriters, which are facing escalating health-care costs.

Critics say some insurers would be satisfied to see many insured patients swiftly end their lives — that would help them save on rising industry costs that can no longer be offset by investment income.

Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, told The Post that many oppose physician-assisted suicide because it is a direct threat to anyone viewed as a significant cost liability to a health-care provider.

A troubled health-care system and legally assisted suicide, when combined, are a “deadly mix,” according to Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. Golden, a disability rights activist, warns that as soon as assisted suicide is legal, “it immediately becomes the cheapest treatment.”

“Direct coercion is not even necessary,” Golden, said, “because insurers deny, or even merely delay, approval of someone’s expensive life-sustaining treatment — they will be steered toward hastening their death.” There is already some evidence out of Oregon, the first state to legalize assisted suicide, to support this view, she added.

Health insurers seemingly refused to pay for the treatments recommended by doctors for two cancer patients there.

Instead, the insurers offered to pay for alternative “treatments,” which included assisted suicide, according to Golden.

This broken, profit-driven health-care system, as some call it, is anathema to many opponents of assisted suicide, which is now permitted in five states, with a renewed push in the Tri-State area recently.

The so-called “Aid in Dying” bill that would allow terminally ill patients to be prescribed medication to end their lives just passed the New Jersey Assembly on Thursday, but it hasn’t been posted for a vote in the state Senate yet.

Analyst say the low investment returns eked out by insurers may be behind this thinking on insurers’ role in assisted suicide. US health insurers have made money through the years by pricing their products appropriately, based on certain risk parameters, and through investment income of the reserves they must hold — as required by law — in anticipation of paying claims, according to Mike Fitzgerald, a senior analyst following the industry at Celent.

“Because of the low interest yields on government bonds, which regulators mandate they hold in significant amounts in order to reduce the investment risk, insurers can no longer count on this as a source of income,” according to Fitzgerald. “Thus, the pressure is on to improve their core operations and to grow.”

The insurers are under severe cost pressure, which can be offset either through hiking prices and premiums, or by reducing operational spending, Fitzgerald said.

US health-care spending already accounts for some 18 percent of GDP, or nearly $2.8 trillion in 2013.

But US insurance companies reject the claims.

“We haven’t taken a position on the ‘assisted-suicide’ provisions, nor has AHIP taken a role at the state or federal level on these bills,” Clare Krusing, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance industry trade group based in Washington, told The Post.

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Bosses of nuisance call firms face fines under new law

Bosses of companies behind nuisance calls could face fines of up to £500,000 under a government move to clamp down on the behaviour.

Firms could already be fined if they breached rules, but bosses could attempt to dodge the penalty and set up a new company.

From next spring, a change in the law will mean directors will be held personally responsible and fined, along with the company, with combined penalties of up to £1 million.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will impose the fines if the firms and bosses are found to be breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

The move has been welcomed by the information watchdog, while consumer group Which? called it a “massive victory”.

Digital and Culture Minister Matt Hancock said: “Nuisance callers are a blight on society, causing significant distress to elderly and vulnerable people.

“We have been clear that we will not stand for this continued harassment and this latest amendment to the law will strike another blow to those businesses and company bosses responsible.”

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “We are inundated with complaints from people who are left shaken and distressed by the intrusion on their daily lives.

“Making directors responsible will stop them ducking away from fines by putting their company into liquidation. It will stop them leaving by the back door as the regulator comes through the front door.”

The ICO has issued fines to the tune of almost £3.7 million to firms that use spam texts and nuisance calls.

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Asar wins top Kuwait law firm award

Al Ruwayeh & Partners (Asar), a leading corporate law firm in Kuwait and one of the region’s top tier firms, said it has been awarded the prestigious “National Law Firm of the Year Award” – being constituted by the International Financial Law Review (IFLR), a leading financial market guide for financial law firms worldwide – for the eighth consecutive year.

The firm operates across an extensive list of practices including banking and finance, capital markets, mergers and acquisitions, privatisations, corporate and commercial transactions, energy, real estate, restructuring, private equity, shipping,  construction and government projects.

The awards ceremony was held last week at Burj Al Arab hotel, Dubai, which was attended by partners and representatives from other leading GCC and international law firms.

In addition to winning the above award, Asar was also nominated for its role in five other major transactions namely, for debt and equity-linked deal of the year – the Burgan Bank Tier 2 bond issuance, for project finance deal of the year – Orpic Liwa Plastics transaction, 2 nominations under the restructuring deal of the year – the National Industries Euro Sukuk restructuring and the Wataniya Airways restructuring, and for the domestic deal of the year – the National Industries Group bond issuance.

Sam Habbas, the senior partner at Asar, said: “It was a successful evening for the firm at this year’s IFLR Middle East Awards ceremony. We are delighted to have won the highly coveted National Law Firm of the Year Award for 2016 and to also have been nominated in so many other categories.”

“We feel that this is a testament to the strength of our position as market leaders in Kuwait and in Bahrain. It is a reflection of our consistent diligence and commitment in providing quality legal services of the highest caliber. Always putting our clients first is a non-negotiable principle of our firm; their success is our success. We intend to keep it that way,” he noted.

With dedicated offices in Kuwait and Bahrain coupled with its associated offices and relationships, Asar provides clients across an extensive range of industry sectors with comprehensive legal advice and support for their business activities in Kuwait, Bahrain, across the GCC and beyond.

Ahmed Barakat, the managing partner, said: “The IFLR award and nominations recognise our expertise across a whole range of legal areas and highlight the nature and extent to which we continue to forge ahead in leading the market.  These awards reflect the strength and depth of our practice and the extraordinary efforts of all of our lawyers in Kuwait and in Bahrain.”

The firm has been consistently rated as the leading corporate and commercial law firm in Kuwait by legal guides such as the Chambers Global Guide, International Financial Law Review and the Legal 500.-TradeArabia News Service

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Rwandan firms want court to dismiss Innscor copyright infringement case

A fast food outlet operated by Chicken Inn and Pizza Inn. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

Chicken Inn Ltd and Pizza Inn Ltd have asked the court to throw out a trademark infringement case against it by Innscor International Ltd, a rival company from Mauritius, that wants the two fast food startups to stop trading in Rwanda using their current branding.

In opening remarks of the hearing this week, lawyers for the two Rwandan franchises told the commercial court that the claimant lacks the status to seek remedy in Rwandan courts.

“The claimants allege to be a registered company but it did not present to the court its certificate of incorporation, to prove that it has the legal status to sue,” said Emmanuel Ntihemuka one of the defendants’ three lawyers.

However Innscor lawyer exhibited a document said to be his client’s certificate of incorporation in Mauritius and accused his adversaries of a plot to delay the proceedings. The document’s authenticity was questioned by the defendant’s lawyers saying that it ought to have been certified by the representative of Mauritius in Rwanda but court held that it will rule on this objection with the initial case.

Innscor requested the court to order Chicken Inn Ltd and Pizza Inn Ltd to stop using the names alleging that it (Innscor) has rights over them as registered trademarks in several African countries including Rwanda where it claims to have registered the marks in February 2014.

“My client was surprised to see two Rwandan companies using his trademarks and we see this as illegal exploitation of intellectual property,” said Safari Kizito, Innscor’s lawyer.

“These are not the only marks they have copied,” added the lawyer before mentioning two other international marks alleged to have been encroached on but which are not in this case.

According to the lawyer, Innscor has also registered Chicken Inn and Pizza Inn as its trademark in the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (Aripo), an organisation to which Rwanda is a member and through which a single filing can provide protection in several member states.

Innscor has, through its lawyers asked the court to order the defendant to pay Rwf200 million in damages and to be stopped from using all the marks in all its commercial activities.

The defendants denied any encroachment on the trademarks, and said that by the time they started using the names the alleged claimant’s trademarks did not enjoy any protection in Rwanda.

“The two companies we represent here were registered on October 11, 2013 and started trading using the names disputed. In 2014 Innscor came into Rwanda and registered marks that have some elements of our clients’ legal names and tradenames” said Jean Nepomuscene Mugengangabo, an advocate of the defendant.

The lawyer accused Innscor of registering marks already in use in Rwanda and criticised the Registrar General in the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) of failing to abide by provisions of the Intellectual property law that bar RDB from registering a mark that causes confusion in registered trade names.

On the argument that Innscor registered the marks in an international forum that Rwanda recognises, the defendant held that the claimant did not seek protection in Rwanda as provided by Aripo rules.

“In the Aripo registration, the one who wants trademark protection must precisely designate countries in which he wants his marks to be protected, but the claimant designated only Uganda and Namibia while Rwanda is not on this list,” Mr Mugengangabo said.

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Rwandan firms want court to dismiss Innscor case

A fast food outlet operated by Chicken Inn and Pizza Inn. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

Chicken Inn Ltd and Pizza Inn Ltd have asked the court to throw out a trademark infringement case against it by Innscor International Ltd, a rival company from Mauritius, that wants the two fast food startups to stop trading in Rwanda using their current branding.

In opening remarks of the hearing this week, lawyers for the two Rwandan franchises told the commercial court that the claimant lacks the status to seek remedy in Rwandan courts.

“The claimants allege to be a registered company but it did not present to the court its certificate of incorporation, to prove that it has the legal status to sue,” said Emmanuel Ntihemuka one of the defendants’ three lawyers.

However Innscor lawyer exhibited a document said to be his client’s certificate of incorporation in Mauritius and accused his adversaries of a plot to delay the proceedings. The document’s authenticity was questioned by the defendant’s lawyers saying that it ought to have been certified by the representative of Mauritius in Rwanda but court held that it will rule on this objection with the initial case.

Innscor requested the court to order Chicken Inn Ltd and Pizza Inn Ltd to stop using the names alleging that it (Innscor) has rights over them as registered trademarks in several African countries including Rwanda where it claims to have registered the marks in February 2014.

“My client was surprised to see two Rwandan companies using his trademarks and we see this as illegal exploitation of intellectual property,” said Safari Kizito, Innscor’s lawyer.

“These are not the only marks they have copied,” added the lawyer before mentioning two other international marks alleged to have been encroached on but which are not in this case.

According to the lawyer, Innscor has also registered Chicken Inn and Pizza Inn as its trademark in the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (Aripo), an organisation to which Rwanda is a member and through which a single filing can provide protection in several member states.

Innscor has, through its lawyers asked the court to order the defendant to pay Rwf200 million in damages and to be stopped from using all the marks in all its commercial activities.

The defendants denied any encroachment on the trademarks, and said that by the time they started using the names the alleged claimant’s trademarks did not enjoy any protection in Rwanda.

“The two companies we represent here were registered on October 11, 2013 and started trading using the names disputed. In 2014 Innscor came into Rwanda and registered marks that have some elements of our clients’ legal names and tradenames” said Jean Nepomuscene Mugengangabo, an advocate of the defendant.

The lawyer accused Innscor of registering marks already in use in Rwanda and criticised the Registrar General in the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) of failing to abide by provisions of the Intellectual property law that bar RDB from registering a mark that causes confusion in registered trade names.

On the argument that Innscor registered the marks in an international forum that Rwanda recognises, the defendant held that the claimant did not seek protection in Rwanda as provided by Aripo rules.

“In the Aripo registration, the one who wants trademark protection must precisely designate countries in which he wants his marks to be protected, but the claimant designated only Uganda and Namibia while Rwanda is not on this list,” Mr Mugengangabo said.

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