After waiting for seven consecutive years for the Supreme Court to establish whether the Liberia Industrial Property Office (LIPO) and the Ministry of Commence (MOC) allegedly facilitated the duplication of a trademark certificate in favor of Housseni Kafel, a Lebanese businessman and owner of HK Enterprise to import pop drink on the market, the court on Tuesday November 24 opened the matter.
The court did not just open the case it also entertained legal argument on Tuesday, where both the lawyers of BAF Trading Corporation and those of the two governments and Kessell presented their individual sides of the matter to convince the justices to decide in their clients’ favor.
BAF Trading Corporation instituted a petition for declaration of judgment against H.K. Enterprise claiming that the company without any legal basis obtained its trademark, which gives BAF a ten-year exclusive right to be the sole importer of Pop Drink into Liberia.
The case was first filed before the Commercial Court at the Temple of Justice in 2016 but, surprisingly, after months of hearing the merit and demerit of the matter, the claim that it does not have jurisdiction over the case prompted BAF to seek redress at the Supreme Court which has taken seven years.
BAF Trading Corporation had argued that it registered its trademark in March 2010 but without any violation and expiration of its ten-year right. The Liberia Industrial Property Office (LIPO) in 2014 issued to H.K. Enterprise a duplicated trademark that caused BAF to reportedly lose millions of United States dollars.
LIPO was established by an Act of the National Legislature on March 23, 2003, with the mandate to control the registration and regulation of intellectual property materials by providing minimum local and international standards of protection.
BAF claimed that LIPO did not follow due process and revoked its exclusive right, and subsequently issued it to H.K. Enterprise.
H.K. Enterprise is owned by Housseni Kafel, who is being tried for allegedly using the duplicated trademark certificate to import ‘Pop Drink’ to the Liberian market.
However, LIPO in 2014 registered the trademark certificate in favor of H.K. Enterprise as the only entity to import and sell ‘Pop Drink’ in Liberia.
The MOC was also accused of issuing an Import Declaration Permit (IDP) that facilitated H.K. Enterprise to bring the Pop Drink into the country.
The parties had denied doing anything wrong about the issuing of the trademark to Kafel.