Mololine, a public transport services company, has won a legal battle to restrain Moline Limited from infringing on its trademark.
The firm is accusing its competitor of registering a trademark bearing striking similarity to mislead and deceive its customers.
Barring Moline from passing off as Mololine, Lady Justice Murugi Mugo said the firm’s words and marks, their usage in the same locality and in the same industry “has a high likelihood of causing confusion among members of the public. Commuters will confuse Moline mini-buses with those of Mololine, be deceived or made to believe that Moline buses belong to or are associated with Mololine Services,” Lady Justice Mugo ruled.
Mololine went to court to challenge the glaring similarity in the two business trademarks saying only the middle syllable “LO” had been removed from Moline name, “otherwise, the stickers, receipts and other printouts have similar colour, shape, size and style.”
A sworn affidavit by Mololine director Silas Njeru says the company was incorporated on May 9, 1995 but the trademark-KET/2005/057629 was registered in 2005.
Njeru told the court that its business involves commuter transportation, courier services and outdoor advertisement.
He further submitted that the company’s logo depicting a bird was duly approved by the Registrar of Trademarks on July 11, 1995.
Mololine said it became aware of Moline application to the Registrar of Trademarks after it was gazetted on February 28 under reference KET/2010/0069757.
Moline responded through its director John Njoroge saying their business involving 86 commuter buses and 120 employees would grind to a halt if the court restrained it from using the name Moline.
He argued that the Transport Licence Board (TLB) had already issued it with licences which were non-transferable.
Njoroge also dismissed claims of similarities in the two names, saying its rival’s business was not under any threat from his company.
“If there had been any confusion caused by the use of the word Moline, Mololine would have closed shop by now,” he said.
But Lady Justice Mugo observed that given the nature of the business, the company stood to suffer irreparable loss not capable of compensation in damages.
She consequently suspended the registration of Moline and restrained it from using the name in public transport services.
Moline appealed the decision by Lady Justice Mugo and lodged an application to stay the execution of her orders pending determination of the appeal, but the same was rejected by Mr Justice Eric Ogola.
“A court order must be obeyed... Having disregarded the court orders and treating the same with utter contempt, this court cannot exercise its discretion on behalf of the applicant,” ruled Mr Justice Ogola.
Mololine now wants the court to find Moline directors in contempt of court for disobeying the court orders and continuing to run the business using the infringed trademark.