Battle for beer bottle design sinks to new low

The court has temporarily restrained the beer company and its parent firm, East Africa Breweries Limited (EABL), from using the long neck bottle, to package their beer products particularly President Special Edition Larger and President Extra Lager or any of their brands.

This Christmas festival may turn out to be less profitable for the Ugandan Breweries Limited.  

The legal restriction, according to a notice issued in the press on Monday was effected on November 17 and holds until January 27, when the court will hear a complaint filed by Jinja-based Nile Breweries.

The business conflict between the two beer giants was sparked off on November 5, when Nile Breweries, through a newspaper notice, warned beer distributors against vending beer products in the bottle, save for its Nile Special, Club Pilsner and Castle Milk Stout beers.

The complainant, a subsidiary of South African Breweries (SABMiller), through its lawyers, further warned that whoever acts contrary to the warning, “shall be doing so contrary to the law and property rights” of Nile Breweries and shall be liable to prosecution.

NBL has patented or legally protected the “uniquely designed” beer bottle by registering it as its trade mark– a label which distinguishes the goods or services of one company from those of another company under the Trade Marks Act of Uganda.

NBL has also registered the bottle as an industrial design with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) in Zimbabwe.

In Uganda, Nile Breweries has protected the contested “Long Neck bottle” as Trade Mark No. 32118, under Class 32 of the Trade Mark Act.

But in a mocking response to the Nile Breweries’ call, UBL urged its customers and the public to ignore the warning and proceed to buy their beer sold in long neck bottles.

UBL said the bottle in the spotlight is generic and can be used by anyone.

Mr Edwin Busuulwa a lawyer told Daily Monitor if a company is proven guilty of violating the property rights of another, it could be asked to pay damages awarded by a court depending on the outcome of evidence presented by the aggrieved party’s lawyers.

In the latest notice, court has indicated that, “the cost of the injunction, “shall be the costs of the cause,” implying UBL could pay for acting contrary to court orders.

“The guilty party can also be blocked from selling the product in the market,” Mr Busuulwa told this newspaper in an interview last month.