Kho v. CA (Case Digest. G.R. No. 115758)


FACTS: On December 20, 1991, petitioner Elidad C. Kho filed a complaint for injunction and damages with a prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction, docketed as Civil Case No. Q-91-10926, against the respondents Summerville General Merchandising and Company (Summerville, for brevity) and Ang Tiam Chay.

The petitioner’s complaint alleges that petitioner, doing business under the name and style of KEC Cosmetics Laboratory, is the registered owner of the copyrights Chin Chun Su and Oval Facial Cream Container/Case, as shown by Certificates of Copyright Registration No. 0-1358 and No. 0-3678; that she also has patent rights on Chin Chun Su & Device and Chin Chun Su for medicated cream after purchasing the same from Quintin Cheng, the registered owner thereof in the Supplemental Register of the Philippine Patent Office on February 7, 1980 under Registration Certificate No. 4529; that respondent Summerville advertised and sold petitioner’s cream products under the brand name Chin Chun Su, in similar containers that petitioner uses, thereby misleading the public, and resulting in the decline in the petitioner’s business sales and income; and, that the respondents should be enjoined from allegedly infringing on the copyrights and patents of the petitioner.

The respondents, on the other hand, alleged as their defense that Summerville is the exclusive and authorized importer, re-packer and distributor of Chin Chun Su products manufactured by Shun Yi Factory of Taiwan; that the said Taiwanese manufacturing company authorized Summerville to register its trade name Chin Chun Su Medicated Cream with the Philippine Patent Office and other appropriate governmental agencies; that KEC Cosmetics Laboratory of the petitioner obtained the copyrights through misrepresentation and falsification; and, that the authority of Quintin Cheng, assignee of the patent registration certificate, to distribute and market Chin Chun Su products in the Philippines had already been terminated by the said Taiwanese Manufacturing Company.

After due hearing on the application for preliminary injunction, the trial court granted the same in an Order dated February 10, 1992. Motion for reconsideration, denied.

On April 24, 1992, the respondents filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 27803, praying for the nullification of the said writ of preliminary injunction issued by the trial court. After the respondents filed their reply and almost a month after petitioner submitted her comment, or on August 14 1992, the latter moved to dismiss the petition for violation of Supreme Court Circular No. 28-91, a circular prohibiting forum shopping. According to the petitioner, the respondents did not state the docket number of the civil case in the caption of their petition and, more significantly, they did not include therein a certificate of non-forum shopping. The respondents opposed the petition and submitted to the appellate court a certificate of non-forum shopping for their petition.

On May 24, 1993, the appellate court rendered a Decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 27803 ruling in favor of the respondents.

The petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration. This she followed with several motions to declare respondents in contempt of court for publishing advertisements notifying the public of the promulgation of the assailed decision of the appellate court and stating that genuine Chin Chun Su products could be obtained only from Summerville General Merchandising and Co.

In the meantime, the trial court went on to hear petitioner’s complaint for final injunction and damages. On October 22, 1993, the trial court rendered a Decision[7] barring the petitioner from using the trademark Chin Chun Su and upholding the right of the respondents to use the same, but recognizing the copyright of the petitioner over the oval shaped container of her beauty cream. The trial court did not award damages and costs to any of the parties but to their respective counsels were awarded Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos (P75,000.00) each as attorney’s fees. The petitioner duly appealed the said decision to the Court of Appeals.

On June 3, 1994, the Court of Appeals promulgated a Resolution[8] denying the petitioner’s motions for reconsideration and for contempt of court in CA-G.R. SP No. 27803.

The petitioner faults the appellate court for not dismissing the petition on the ground of violation of Supreme Court Circular No. 28-91. Also, the petitioner contends that the appellate court violated Section 6, Rule 9 of the Revised Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals when it failed to rule on her motion for reconsideration within ninety (90) days from the time it is submitted for resolution. The appellate court ruled only after the lapse of three hundred fifty-four (354) days, or on June 3, 1994. In delaying the resolution thereof, the appellate court denied the petitioner’s right to seek the timely appellate relief. Finally, petitioner describes as arbitrary the denial of her motions for contempt of court against the respondents.ISSUE: [1] Would the copyright and patent over the name and container of a beauty cream product entitle the registrant to the use and ownership over the same to the exclusion of others?

[2] Should an injunctive writ (plus damages) issue?

HELD: We rule in favor of the respondents. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals dated May 24, 1993 and June 3, 1994, respectively, are hereby AFFIRMED. With costs against the petitioner.

Trademark, copyright and patents are different intellectual property rights that cannot be interchanged with one another. A trademark is any visible sign capable of distinguishing the goods (trademark) or services (service mark) of an enterprise and shall include a stamped or marked container of goods.[12] In relation thereto, a trade name means the name or designation identifying or distinguishing an enterprise.[13] Meanwhile, the scope of a copyright is confined to literary and artistic works which are original intellectual creations in the literary and artistic domain protected from the moment of their creation.[14] Patentable inventions, on the other hand, refer to any technical solution of a problem in any field of human activity which is new, involves an inventive step and is industrially applicable.[15]

Petitioner has no right to support her claim for the exclusive use of the subject trade name and its container. The name and container of a beauty cream product are proper subjects of a trademark inasmuch as the same falls squarely within its definition. In order to be entitled to exclusively use the same in the sale of the beauty cream product, the user must sufficiently prove that she registered or used it before anybody else did. The petitioner’s copyright and patent registration of the name and container would not guarantee her the right to the exclusive use of the same for the reason that they are not appropriate subjects of the said intellectual rights. Consequently, a preliminary injunction order cannot be issued for the reason that the petitioner has not proven that she has a clear right over the said name and container to the exclusion of others, not having proven that she has registered a trademark thereto or used the same before anyone did.

FINAL INJUNCTION AND DAMAGES: We cannot likewise overlook the decision of the trial court in the case for final injunction and damages. The dispositive portion of said decision held that the petitioner does not have trademark rights on the name and container of the beauty cream product. The said decision on the merits of the trial court rendered the issuance of the writ of a preliminary injunction moot and academic notwithstanding the fact that the same has been appealed in the Court of Appeals.

[10] Section 4, Rule 58, Revised Rules of Civil Procedure.
[11] Sy v. Court of Appeals, 313 SCRA 328 (1999).
[12] Section 121.1, Republic Act No. 8293.
[13] Section 121.3, Republic Act. No. 8293.
[14] Section 172, Republic Act No. 8293.
[15] Section 21, Republic Act No. 8293.
[16] 278 SCRA 498, 506 quoting Solid Homes, Inc. v. LA Vista, G.R. No. 71150 dated April 20, 1988 (unpublished).
[17] De Roma v. Court of Appeals, 152 SCRA 205, 209 (1987).