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Friday, March 14, 2014

The setting of the Philippines cement wars


A collection of disputes in the Philippines concerning the EAGLE cement brand appears to be coming to an end. The Bureau of Legal Affairs (BLA) recently decided a number of cases all in favour of Republic Cement Corporation (formerly Lloyds Richfield Industrial Corporation). Republic is now owned by French cement and construction materials giant Lafarge. The BLA consistently held that Republic is the owner of the mark EAGLE CEMENT, contrary to Respondent Eagle Cement Corporation’s assertions. Eagle was founded by Ramon Ang, the President of industrial conglomerate San Miguel Corporation. Its brand is shown here.
 
Republic Cement filed several oppositions and cancellation actions against trademark applications and registrations filed and owned by Eagle. Republic alleged that its predecessor Lloyds Richfield had first adopted the mark and used it since 1992 on cement products sold in the Philippines. In 1997, Lloyds Richfield had filed an application for the EAGLE CEMENT, but had failed to comply with formalities requirements, thus resulting in abandonment of the application. Lloyds Richfield and then Republic continued to use the mark notwithstanding the abandonment despite not having a proper registration. 
 
Eagle in June 2008 filed an application and acquired a registration for the mark EAGLE CEMENT & DEVICE. It started operations in 2010. It later filed several other applications for variations of the EAGLE CEMENT mark. Eagle contended in the dispute that Republic had no right to cancel its marks, as it had failed to file oppositions when the marks were published, and only belatedly filed cancellation actions. 
 
The BLA sensibly, and following its own previous decisions confirmed that registration was a presumption of ownership, which could be overcome by evidence to the contrary. It is not an application or registration that confers ownership of a mark, but it is actual ownership of the mark which confers the right to registration. 
 
In the cases, the BLA said that records and evidence clearly showed that Republic and Lloyds Richfield coined, appropriated and used the contested mark on cement products well before the Respondent adopted and filed applications for the exact same mark for use on identical goods.

It was perhaps a poor decision of Eagle to try and appropriate an existing mark; however Republic and Lloyds Richfield should really have got their rights in order before embarking on extensive trade. However Eagle Cement continues to trade according to its website and we can expect that while the first round has been won by Republic, Eagle with its deep pocketed backer will continue to fight until the war is over.  

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