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Following the decision by the Lideta Federal High Court on October 11, 2015, the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) has prepared Kangaroo Plastic S.C a certificate verifying that the “Ibex” emblem is a registered trademark of the plastic manufacturer. The dispute between Kangaroo Plastic S.C and Heineken Breweries arose after the later used the Ibex symbol on a newly released bottled beer.
Heineken’s new beer and its symbol had gained popular acceptance when the brewery sponsored the national football team under its new product, Waliya Beer. The popular association of the beer and the national team had gone too far before a complaint was raised by Kangaroo.
In October 2015, the high court rejected Heineken’s argument that it is a sole owner of the mark, deciding instead that a fire accident that destroyed Kangaroo Plastic’s factory few years ago had crippled its ability to finance the brewery project. Thus the court accepted the Force Majeure argument as to why Kangaroo’s brewery project was discontinued and gave a verdict in favor of Kangaroo as a rightful owner of the “Ibex” brand.
Walia was registered by EIPO in 2007 as a trademark owned by Kangaroo Plastic for a brewery project in Modjo town, Oromia Regional State, before Heineken Breweries requested registration on February 25, 2014.
The dispute is not with the name of the mark, but with regard to the symbol — the image of the Ibex. Kangaroo registered the English name of the wild mountain goat on its emblem -Ibex, while Heineken uses the Amharic- Walia for its popular beer. But both brands subscribe to the same image the Ibex goat, hence the dispute.
Ermias Yemanebirhane, Trade Mark and Industrial Design Director in EIPO, told Capital that the office is ready to give Kangaroo a trademark registration certificate. However, it is still not clear whether Heineken will lose ownership of its Waliya trademark, or if both companies will be able to use the symbol.
Heineken Breweries insist that their company fully legally owns and will continue to fully legally own the Walia trademark even if Kangaroo will get back the Ibex – Brand. According to an official email response Heineken said “the two trademarks can co-exist in the market place in Ethiopia.”
Kangaroo Plastic S.C was a major distributer of Heineken Beer until 2010 when an agreement to start a brewery in partnership with Heineken fell through. Now, Kangaroo is determined to enter the beer market alone. The plastic manufacturer’s lawyer affirmed that the company is working tirelessly to enter the market in less thana year.