Samson v. Daway (Case Digest. G.R. No. 160054)

CASE DIGEST: G.R. Nos. 160054-55. July 21, 2004 MANOLO P. SAMSON, petitioner, vs. HON. REYNALDO B. DAWAY, in his capacity as Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 90, PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and CATERPILLAR, INC., respondents. YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

FACTS: Two informations for unfair competition under Section 168.3 (a), in relation to Section 170, of the Intellectual Property Code (Republic Act No. 8293), similarly worded save for the dates and places of commission, were filed against petitioner Manolo P. Samson, the registered owner of ITTI Shoes.

Samson filed a motion to suspend arraignment and other proceedings in view of the existence of an alleged prejudicial question involved in a civil case for unfair competition pending with the same branch of the RTC; and also in view of the pendency of a petition for review filed with the Secretary of Justice assailing the Chief State Prosecutor’s resolution finding probable cause to charge petitioner-accused with unfair competition. The RTC denied the motion to suspend arraignment and other proceedings.

Later, Samson filed a twin motion to quash the informations and motion for reconsideration of the order denying motion to suspend, this time challenging the jurisdiction of the trial court over the offense charged. He contended that since under Section 170 of R.A. No. 8293, the penalty of imprisonment for unfair competition does not exceed six years, the offense is cognizable by the Municipal Trial Courts and not by the Regional Trial Court, per R.A. No. 7691. Denied. Motion for reconsideration. Also denied.

ISSUES: [1] Which court has jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases for violation of intellectual property rights?

[2] Did the respondent Judge gravely abuse his discretion in refusing to suspend the arraignment and other proceedings in Criminal Case Nos. Q-02-108043-44 on the ground of – (a) the existence of a prejudicial question; and (b) the pendency of a petition for review with the Secretary of Justice on the finding of probable cause for unfair competition?

HELD: The petition was dismissed.

Under Section 170 of R.A. No. 8293, which took effect on January 1, 1998, the criminal penalty for infringement of registered marks, unfair competition, false designation of origin and false description or representation, is imprisonment from 2 to 5 years and a fine ranging from Fifty Thousand Pesos to Two Hundred Thousand Pesos.

Corollarily, Section 163 of the same Code states that actions (including criminal and civil) under Sections 150, 155, 164, 166, 167, 168 and 169 shall be brought before the proper courts with appropriate jurisdiction under existing laws.

RTC'S JURISDICTION: The existing law referred to in the foregoing provision is Section 27 of R.A. No. 166 (The Trademark Law) which provides that jurisdiction over cases for infringement of registered marks, unfair competition, false designation of origin and false description or representation, is lodged with the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court).

NO EXPRESS REPEAL: R.A. No. 8293 (Section 239) did not expressly repeal R.A. No. 166 in its entirety, otherwise, it would not have used the phrases "parts of Acts" and "inconsistent herewith;" and it would have simply stated "Republic Act No. 165, as amended; Republic Act No. 166, as amended; and Articles 188 and 189 of the Revised Penal Code; Presidential Decree No. 49, including Presidential Decree No. 285, as amended are hereby repealed." It would have removed all doubts that said specific laws had been rendered without force and effect. The use of the phrases "parts of Acts" and "inconsistent herewith" only means that the repeal pertains only to provisions which are repugnant or not susceptible of harmonization with R.A. No. 8293.6 Section 27 of R.A. No. 166, however, is consistent and in harmony with Section 163 of R.A. No. 8293. Had R.A. No. 8293 intended to vest jurisdiction over violations of intellectual property rights with the Metropolitan Trial Courts, it would have expressly stated so under Section 163 thereof.STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION: Moreover, the settled rule in statutory construction is that in case of conflict between a general law and a special law, the latter must prevail. Jurisdiction conferred by a special law to Regional Trial Courts must prevail over that granted by a general law to Municipal Trial Courts.

Jurisdiction over the instant criminal case for unfair competition is properly lodged with the Regional Trial Court even if the penalty therefor is imprisonment of less than 6 years, or from 2 to 5 years and a fine ranging from P50,000.00 to P200,000.00.

IRR: In fact, to implement and ensure the speedy disposition of cases involving violations of intellectual property rights under R.A. No. 8293, the Court issued A.M. No. 02-1-11-SC dated February 19, 2002 designating certain Regional Trial Courts as Intellectual Property Courts. On June 17, 2003, the Court further issued a Resolution consolidating jurisdiction to hear and decide Intellectual Property Code and Securities and Exchange Commission cases in specific Regional Trial Courts designated as Special Commercial Courts.

NO PREJUDICIAL QUESTION: Anent the second issue, there is no prejudicial question if the civil and the criminal action can, according to law, proceed independently of each other. Under Rule 111, Section 3 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, in the cases provided in Articles 32, 33, 34 and 2176 of the Civil Code, the independent civil action may be brought by the offended party. It shall proceed independently of the criminal action and shall require only a preponderance of evidence.

In the case at bar, the common element in the acts constituting unfair competition under Section 168 of R.A. No. 8293 is fraud. Pursuant to Article 33 of the Civil Code, in cases of defamation, fraud, and physical injuries, a civil action for damages, entirely separate and distinct from the criminal action, may be brought by the injured party. Hence, Civil Case No. Q-00-41446, which as admitted by private respondent also relate to unfair competition, is an independent civil action under Article 33 of the Civil Code. As such, it will not operate as a prejudicial question that will justify the suspension of the criminal cases at bar.

AFTER 60 DAYS, COURT BOUND TO ARRAIGN: While the pendency of a petition for review is a ground for suspension of the arraignment, the aforecited provision limits the deferment of the arraignment to a period of 60 days reckoned from the filing of the petition with the reviewing office. It follows, therefore, that after the expiration of said period, the trial court is bound to arraign the accused or to deny the motion to defer arraignment.

In the instant case, petitioner failed to establish that respondent Judge abused his discretion in denying his motion to suspend. His pleadings and annexes submitted before the Court do not show the date of filing of the petition for review with the Secretary of Justice. Moreover, the Order dated August 9, 2002 denying his motion to suspend was not appended to the petition. He thus failed to discharge the burden of proving that he was entitled to a suspension of his arraignment and that the questioned orders are contrary to Section 11 (c), Rule 116 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure. Indeed, the age-old but familiar rule is that he who alleges must prove his allegations.

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