December 1, 2021, Lagos, Nigeria – Today, the Federal High Court in Lagos dismissed the committal proceedings filed by Rite Foods Limited against the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Ltd and its Managing Director, Mr. Matthieu Seguin, over alleged trademark infringement.
Rite Foods had initiated proceedings before Hon. Justice Aneke of the Federal High Court, wherein it obtained anexparte order restraining NBC from passing off its energy drink in a manner capable of infringing on its brand. In response, NBC filed a notice of preliminary objection against suit on the premise that Rite Foods’ applications were brought malafide and were without merit as the suit lacked a firm ground to stand in law. Justice Aneke, on September 27, 2021,discharged the exparte order.
During proceedings before Hon. Justice Allagoa in respect to the contempt proceedings filed against NBC by Rite Foods, NBChad prayed the court to set aside the contempt proceedings as the injunctive orders which form the crux of the plaintiff’s complaint had been discharged by Hon. Justice Aneke. Counsel to NBC also prayed the court to award punitive costs against Rite Foods if it finds no basis for the contempt proceedings.
Delivering his ruling on Wednesday (today), Justice Allagoa held that the court cannot hold a party in contempt when the order has been declared invalid and set aside, noting that such order is no longer capable of being obeyed or enforced. Thecourt therefore set aside the committal proceedings and other processes filed by Rite Foods against NBC and its Managing Director.
Counsel to NBC reiterated that both alleged contemnors (NBC and its Managing Director) are entitled to punitive costs from Rite Foods as it initiated the committal proceedings subjecting them to a “needless” and “avoidable” legal battle. Following this, counsels to both defendants asked for the cost of N5,000,000 (Five Million Naira) each against Rite Foods. In response, counsel to Rite Foods did not concede to cost and instead urged the court to dismiss the application by the NBC’scounsel, claiming that the proceedings were filed in good faith.
Justice Allagoa noted that the court had hinted for Rite Foods not to proceed with the committal proceedings since the order has been discharged by Justice Aneke. But Rite Foods had failed to withdraw the contempt suit insisting that there are substantial grounds for the proceedings. Upon listening to the Counsel’s submissions, the Court awarded the cost of N1,000,000 (One Million Naira) against Rite Foods in favor of NBC and its Managing Director.
NBC remains confident and stands by its position that there has been no trademark violation or passing off with its Predator Energy drink as the Predator Brand Logo had been in existence and in use in many other markets, even prior to the launch of Fearless by Rite Foods in the Nigerian market.