Mr. Moses Nyenpan, the expert responsible for research at the Liberia Industrial Property Office (LIPO), last week told the Commercial Court that he did not receive or know about a duplicate trademark issued to H.K. Enterprise owned by Lebanese businessman Houssein Kaffel.
Mr. Nyenpan, whose testimony was based on a request from the court, alleged that the duplicate certificate bears the signature of LIPO Acting Director General, Mr. Robert Meizzeh.
The witness further alleged that the act denied the ten (10) year exclusive rights issued to BAF Trading Corporation, a Liberian company in 2010, under the Intellectual Property Laws (IPL).
“When I was employed and appointed as research director at LIPO in 2012, by then, BAF Trading Corporation has been registered as the importer and distributor of pop drink on the local market since 2010,” Nyepan said in his testimony.
He added that on January 20, 2014, without his knowledge, “I saw a document with a registration of a Trademark for H.K. Enterprise. I don’t have an idea as to how it was done.”
Trademark is a recognizable sign, design or expression which identifies products or services for a particular source from those of others, the expert witness explained, adding that “the Liberia Industrial Property Act of 2003 provides ten years protection to the holder of a trademark.”
BAF Trading Corporation through its legal team filed a lawsuit against LIPO, the Ministry of Commence (MOC) and H. K. Enterprise for allegedly breaching the Intellectual Property Laws, by issuing its registered trademark to Houssein Kaffel, and claiming millions dollars for damages.
LIPO is a government entity responsible for issuing trademarks while the MOC is also responsible for issuing Import Permit Declaration (IPD).
Nyepan said a trademark is protected by national, regional and international laws, such as the Berne Convention.
Earlier, when Boubacar S. Balde, import manager of BAF, testified, he said, LIPO certificated them in 2010 with a trademark as the only importer and distributor of pop drinks on the local market.
Without the expiration of the ten year protection, he alleged that “LIPO’s acting director Mr. Robert Meizzeh ignored the Intellectual Property Laws and duplicated our trademark for HK Enterprise.”
He said the Ministry of Commerce got involved because it was aware that BAF was the sole importer and distributor of pop drinks in Liberia, but gave H.K. Enterprise the Import Permit Declaration (IDP) to import and distribute the same pop drinks on the Liberian market.
Balde explained that LIPO and MOC had argued that the action was due to the termination of BAF’s trademark. “They revoked our trademark without any legal basis to the intellectual property law and did not even cite any provision of the law that gave them the right to terminate our ten year trademark in four years.”
He said the MOC claimed that they also terminated the trademark as a result of an investigation they conducted with PT Forenzer of Indonesia, the manufacture pop drinks.
“They told us that during the investigation they discovered that PT Forenzer’s application letter issued to PT Afrindo of Guinea as third party to supply the pop drink because BAF’s rights expired since 2013,” Balde quoted LIPO and MOC letter to BAF.
“Their action contravened article 43(4) (A) page (20 to 21) of the trademark law,” the BAF import manger told the court.
Balde further alleged that they received an indefinite appointment letter from Pt Afrindo in January 2010 because “the manufacture does not have any influence on the national Intellectual Property Laws.”
Balde said since they were not importing and distributing based on the termination of the PT Afrindo’s application letter by PT Forenzer, “there was no need for LIPO and MOC to terminate our trademark because we did not violate article 52 (9), which refers to none use of trademark.”
The case continues today.