Liquor firm slammed for branding products with historical names

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

SENATOR Pia Cayetano on Wednesday criticized the bid of a local liquor making firm to register the names of several historical figures and places as brands for its alcoholic beverage products.

The chairperson of the Senate committee on education, arts and culture said the plan of Destileria Limtuaco Inc. (DLI) to register as its own trademarks the names of several Philippine heroes, including "Rizal," "Bonifacio," and "Gomburza" "threatens to desecrate, misappropriate and trivialize their national and historic significance."

"Dr. Jose Rizal, Gat Andres Bonifacio and the three martyred priests (Padre Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora) all laid their lives for the freedom and rights we enjoy today, and this is how Destileria Limtuaco intends to honor them? Or are they simply taking advantage of their good names to reap the benefits by having their names and images emblazoned on their bottles of whisky, gin, brandy and rhum?" the senator asked.

"It boggles my mind that the corporate executives of this company are so callous and un-Filipino that they would appropriate the names of Philippine heroes and landmarks for use on their alcoholic products which are known vices," she added.

Cayetano also strongly criticized the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) for allowing the initial approval of DLI's application to register "Intramuros," as a liquor brand.

Cayetano questioned the IPO, a government agency that is tasked to uphold the law and the national interest, for allowing the name of a national heritage site to be reduced into a brand of an intoxicating beverage. The IPO, she said, could have used its authority instead to reject the application outright.

"The trademark examiner has the discretion to deny an application during the substantive examination based on Section 123 of the Intellectual Property Code. If he or she denies it, then it will not be allowed for publication for purposes of opposition," she said.

The senator, a lawyer, noted that the Intellectual Property Code (Republic Act 8293) sets strict guidelines when registering a mark associated with names, national symbols and geographical areas.

Sec. 123.1.a of the law says, a mark cannot be registered if it consists of "immoral, deceptive or scandalous matter, or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt or disrepute";

Sec. 123.1.g says a mark cannot be registered if it "is likely to mislead the public, particularly as to the nature, quality, characteristics or geographical origin of the goods or services"; and

Section 123.1.j: Also says a mark cannot be registered if it "consists exclusively of signs or indications that may serve in trade to designate the xxx geographic origin xxx of the goods or rendering of the services, or other characteristics of the goods or services."

As to DLI's applications to register names of several provinces and cities, she particularly cited the application for "Tacloban" as "markedly opportunistic and insensitive."

"A check with the IPO website would show that DLI’s application to register 'Tacloban' was filed last March 31, or just four months after supertyphoon Yolanda brought widespread destruction to that city. Its residents have barely recovered from the death of relatives, loss of homes, livelihoods and basic services," the senator said.

"Tacloban has become a global symbol of Filipino resilience, hope, recovery and cooperation. And this liquor company has the gall to misappropriate it for selfish ends and corporate profits," she added.

The senator said she fully supports the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Intramuros Administration (IA) in opposing DLI's trademark applications with the IPO.

"I trust that the IPO will rectify this glaring oversight on their part and immediately reject all the controversial trademark registration applications of DLI," she concluded. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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