The long-standing controversy over who is the legitimate holder of the trademark (brand name) to import POP Drink Juice on the Liberian Market has ended. In keeping with the Industrial Property Law of the country, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI), has granted BAF Trading Corporation, a Liberian-owned Business, the rights to be the sole importer of the POP beverages.
In a letter addressed to BIVAC-Liberia dated October 31, 2014, Commerce Minister Axel Addy temporarily suspended the importation of POP Drink on the Liberian market due to a controversy that existed between a Lebanese business, H.K. Enterprise, Inc., and a Liberian business, BAF Trading Corporation over POP Drinks Trademark Rights.
According to Minister Addy’s communication, effective January 1, 2015, BAF Trading Corporation, the original holder of the trademark has been authorized to commence importation of the product into the country.
BAFTC applied to the Liberia Industrial Property Office (LIPO) for trademark rights to import POP Drink to the market and its request was granted by LIPO, thus giving BAF legal authority in accordance with the Industrial Property Law for a period of 10 years.
Three years after giving BAF the legal rights over the trademark, LIPO awarded similar rights to a Lebanese company, H.K. Enterprise located at Red-light for a period of one year.
The reported double TM rights sparked a serious controversy, “because the right given to H.K. Enterprise had no legal ground and or basis in keeping with the law controlling.”
The controversy prompted a whistleblower to write an official complaint to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) requesting the Commission to investigate the circumstances that led to the manner in which BAF Trading Corporation was allegedly arm twisted and their right to the trademark revoked and unlawfully given to H.K. Enterprise.
In the mind of the whistleblower, the process was marred by “corruption” and needed to be flagged.
However, the latest intervention by the Minister of Commerce to restore the right of BAF Trading Corporation as the holder of the trademark, has signaled the Ministry’s respect for the rule of law, and by extension, has created a safe and conducive environment for doing business in Liberia especially at a time Liberians are actively venturing into business activities that will eventually enhance their capacity to take hold of and control the economy.