The Century Bottling Company Ltd, a subsidiary of the South African based Coca Cola Company, has clarified the ongoing dispute over product imitation by the Harris International, Riham Company.
Bob Okello, Public and Government Relations Manager at Coca Cola Central East and West Africa – Business Unit, told the media that the dispute was not on the use of the red colour on the Riham Cola brand as Shadi Ahmed, Director of Riham, had earlier indicated.
Okello explained that the differences between the two beverages companies emerged after Riham used a 500ml Riham Cola bottle shape similar to the Coca-Cola Contour Bottle, which is a registered trade mark in Uganda.
He said this imitation is likely to cause confusion in the minds of consumers or to lead them to think that Riham is associated with Coca-Cola.
In reaction to the matter at his office, Ahmed hoped that the issue of product imitation, which is the main thrust of the case, would be addressed amicably, but Coca Cola has since pursued a legal action over trade mark infringement, after what Okello terms failure to receive agreeable proposals.
The Coca-Cola Company (KO) is the holder of a Trade Mark in the contour bottle shape. The demand to Riham is that they immediately cease use of the bottle.
Guidelines on Trade Mark prohibit incorporating similar product features as regards to fair business competition. For instance, the dispute relates to distinctive concave waist and design elements on the lower half of the Riham Cola bottle.
Julliette Nassuna, Director Intellectual Property Uganda, says that although the Uganda Registration Services Bureau deals with disputes on trademarks, they are yet to receive a complaint, which can be addressed under prescriptions of Intellectual Property Rights.
Okello argued that apparent similarities on Riham Cola containers have been copied from creations, reproductions or adoptions of Coca Cola’s containers.
Okello notes Riham through their lawyers initially denied any infringement. But according to Ahmed, Riham lawyers approached Coca Cola lawyers for a meeting during which they indicated that they would propose changes they were willing to make to their product, to make it distinct from Coca-Cola.
Okello says the proposal received was not satisfactory thus Coca-Cola filed a legal suit in court. A further proposal, which was received together with the summons, was for Riham to make changes to the bottle label.
The matter is still in court.