ASIA BREWERY VS. COURT OF APPEALS AND SAN MIGUEL CORP.- Unfair Competition
Nobody can acquire any exclusive right to market articles supplying the simple human needs in containers or wrappers of the general form, size and character commonly and immediately used in marketing such articles.
San Miguel Corp. (SMC) filed a complaint against Asia Brewery Inc. (ABI) for infringement of trademark and unfair competition. RTC dismissed the complaint finding that ABI has not committed trademark infringement or unfair competition. The CA reversed the decision finding that ABI is guilty of trademark infringement and unfair competition thus the case at bar.
ISSUE: Whether or not ABI infringes SMC’s trademark and as such constitutes unfair competition
Infringement is determined by a test of dominancy. If the competing trademark contains the main or essential or dominant features of another and confusion and deception is likely to result, infringement takes place. A closer look at the trademark of both companies will show that the dominant features of each absolutely bear no similarity to each other. SMC’s dominant trademark is the name of the product, “San Miguel Pale Pilsen” written in white Gothic letters with elaborate serifs at the beginning and end of the letters “S” and “M” on an amber background while ABI’s is the name “Beer Pale Pilsen” with the word Beer written in large amber letters, larger than any of the letter found in SMC label.
The word “pale pilsen” on ABI’s trademark does not constitute trademark infringement for it is a generic word descriptive of the color of a type of beer. No one may appropriate generic or descriptive words for they belong to the public domain.
ABI is likewise not guilty of unfair competition for unfair competition is the employment of deception or any other means contrary to good faith by which a person shall pass off the goods manufactured by him for those of another who has already established goodwill for his similar goods. The universal test for this is whether the public is likely to be deceived. Actual or probable deception and confusion on the part of the customers by reason of defendant’s practices must appear. However, this is unlikely to happen in the case at bar for consumers generally order beer by brand. Also, the fact that ABI also uses amber-colored steinie bottles cannot constitute unfair competition for ABI did not copy SMC’s bottle. SMC did not invent but merely borrowed the steinie bottle from abroad. Likewise, amber is the most effective color in preventing transmission of light thus providing maximum protection to beer. 320 ml is likewise the standard prescribed under Metrication Circular No. 778. The fact that it is the first to use the steinie bottle does not give SMC a vested right to use it to the exclusion of everyone else. Nobody can acquire any exclusive right to market articles supplying the simple human needs in containers or wrappers of the general form, size and character commonly and immediately used in marketing such articles.
There is no confusing similarity between the competing beers therefore ABI neither infringed SMC’s trademark nor did it commit unfair competition.
Dissenting Opinion of J. Cruz:
Side-by-side comparison is not the final test of similarity because average buyers do not make minute scrutiny of label details. The average shopper is usually in a hurry and does not inspect every product on the shelf is if he were browsing in a library.