Infringement of unregistered trade name

In Prosource International, Inc. v. Horphag Research Management SA,[1] the Supreme Court laid down what constitutes infringement of an unregistered trade name, thus:
(1) The trademark being infringed is registered in the Intellectual Property Office; however, in infringement of trade name, the same need not be registered;

(2) The trademark or trade name is reproduced, counterfeited, copied, or colorably imitated by the infringer;

(3) The infringing mark or trade name is used in connection with the sale, offering for sale, or advertising of any goods, business or services; or the infringing mark or trade name is applied to labels, signs, prints, packages, wrappers, receptacles, or advertisements intended to be used upon or in connection with such goods, business, or services;

(4) The use or application of the infringing mark or trade name is likely to cause confusion or mistake or to deceive purchasers or others as to the goods or services themselves or as to the source or origin of such goods or services or the identity of such business; and

(5) It is without the consent of the trademark or trade name owner or the assignee thereof.[2]
Clearly, a trade name need not be registered with the IPO before an infringement suit may be filed by its owner against the owner of an infringing trademark. All that is required is that the trade name is previously used in trade or commerce in the Philippines.[3]

Section 22 of Republic Act No. 166,[4] as amended, required registration of a trade name as a condition for the institution of an infringement suit, to wit:
Sec. 22. Infringement, what constitutes. - Any person who shall use, without the consent of the registrant, any reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation of any registered mark or trade name in connection with the sale, offering for sale, or advertising of any goods, business or services on or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion or mistake or to deceive purchasers or others as to the source or origin of such goods or services, or identity of such business; or reproduce, counterfeit, copy, or colorably imitate any such mark or trade name and apply such reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation to labels, signs, prints, packages, wrappers, receptacles, or advertisements intended to be used upon or in connection with such goods, business, or services, shall be liable to a civil action by the registrant for any or all of the remedies herein provided. 

However, RA 8293, which took effect on 1 January 1998, has dispensed with the registration requirement. Section 165.2 of RA 8293 categorically states that trade names shall be protected, even prior to or without registration with the IPO, against any unlawful act including any subsequent use of the trade name by a third party, whether as a trade name or a trademark likely to mislead the public. Thus:

SEC. 165.2 (a) Notwithstanding any laws or regulations providing for any obligation to register trade names, such names shall be protected, even prior to or without registration, against any unlawful act committed by third parties.

(b) In particular, any subsequent use of a trade name by a third party, whether as a trade name or a mark or collective mark, or any such use of a similar trade name or mark, likely to mislead the public, shall be deemed unlawful. 

It is the likelihood of confusion that is the gravamen of infringement. But there is no absolute standard for likelihood of confusion. Only the particular, and sometimes peculiar, circumstances of each case can determine its existence. Thus, in infringement cases, precedents must be evaluated in the light of each particular case.[5]


[1] G.R. No. 180073, 25 November 2009.

[2] Id.

[3] Philips Export B.V. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 96161, 21 February 1992, 206 SCRA 457.

[4] Otherwise known as the Trademark Law. Took effect on 20 June 1947.

[5] Philip Morris, Inc. v. Fortune Tobacco Corporation, G.R. No. 158589, 27 June 2006, 493 SCRA 333.

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