(left) Genuine Kanta and (right) pirated – Rwanda’s commercial court is hearing a bitter legal fight between suppliers of the two products.
Kanta, a hair dye product has been in use for a long time – but these days the product has been pirated and users just buy without checking labels on the package.
It has emerged that there are two companies importing the much sought after hair dye product. One imports genuine Kanta product and the other has counterfeit.
For decades, MININTCO (R) Ltd has supplied Kanta but this company started producing it locally. However, DRESOCECO LTD – a chinese company registered in Rwanda, imports ‘Wild Olive’ a hair dye product similar to Kanta.
But MININTCO is suing Dobusjes ltd – a Rwandan company for distributing a product similar to Kanta under trademark name ‘Kanto’, which was purchased from Yiwu Chemnim- a Chinese company.
“Kanta brand” has origins in India and is a popular hair dye commonly used in east and central African regions by both men and women who want to keep their hair darker and shinny.
Lawyers representing their clients at Rwanda Commercial Court hearing a bitter legal fight against infringement on intellectual property Rights
In Rwanda Kanta is registered under MININTCO (R) Ltd in the office of the Registrar on 15/02/2012 No_ RW-M10000413 as a hygiene – products company providing bleaching preparations and substances for laundry use, cleaning, polishing, scouring and abrasive preparations, soaps, perfumery, essential oils, cosmetics, and hair lotions; dentifrices.
DRESOCECO LTD is sued for importing similar hair dye under a trademark name of “WILD OLIVE which has almost all but a few characteristics of Kanta; and so is Dobusjes ltd.
From a distance, a hair dye user may have difficulties of differentiating between a packed box of Kanta and that of Wild Olive as both almost look alike- with almost the same product label in colors (blue and Red), package design, layout parking but only different in positioning of colors and slight twist in logo emblems.
Presenting evidence to Nyarugenge commercial court today (March 10, 2017), plaintiffs (MININTCO ltd) lawyers said that the defendants are infringing on Intellectual Properties and product popularity which their client has built in the Rwandan market for years.
“Our client has property rights to this trademark, which they (DRESOCECO LTD) smartly and sophisticatedly manipulated to hoodwink our clients clientele,” advocate Jean Nepomuscene Mugengangabo told court.
Trademarks of both products claim they are genuine and original. They both use same colours despite the arrangement on Logo
Mugengangabo and his co-lawyer Emmanuel Muragijimana asked court to have the case tried on basis of infringement of trademark rights even when the accused company has the same product.
Defendant’s (DRESOCECO LTD) lawyers contested the allegations saying that court had no jurisdiction to try the case on territorial basis since their client was a foreign company with foreign products.
Our client doesn’t agree with the plaintiff because he is foreign and this case would be valid if court had jurisdiction and this issue should be solved before trial starts.
“If it was an issue of duplicating the product, then the penal code would apply,” said Advocate Protogéne Kananga, asking court to delay the initial trial.
After analyzing both arguments, presiding Court president ruled that the defendants company is local thus giving court jurisdiction to try the case.
“Unless if you have not been paid by your client, this court is competent and we have no reason to delay trial”
A court showdown on the Kanta case is expected to take place on March 24, 2017 after court upheld a decision for the case to proceed with an in-depth trail into yet another property rights case.
Property rights lawsuits have become very common in Rwanda after the establishment of the Business and Commercial law court five years ago.
Similar cases on intellectual properties have been presented to Nyarugenge commercial court in 2016, and some of them are still under trial with endless appeals and re-appeals from both plaintiffs and defendants.