Drug maker Cipla wins war with Kenyan firm


Cipla Quality Chemicals headquarters. FILE PHOTO | NMG

An Indian drug manufacturer has won a trademark battle with a Kenyan firm after the High Court ruled that the local company had infringed on its rights in distributing pharmaceutical products.

Justice David Majanja issued a permanent order restraining Lords Healthcare Ltd from importing and distributing drugs belonging to Cipla Ltd, a company registered in India.

The relationship between the companies was initially a manufacturer-agent type and they worked together for decades until 2014 when the contract was terminated.

The judge said by using the word Cipla in packaging and marketing its drugs, Lords will likely deceive and cause confusion in the market yet the Indian company held the exclusive right to trade in the drugs.

“A permanent order of injunction be and is hereby made and directed at Lords Healthcare Limited restraining it, whether by its directors, officers, employees, servants, agents or any person whatsoever authorised by it from importing, trading in advertising or marketing any products covered by the Drug Registration Certificates held by Cipla Limited,” the judge said.

Lords Healthcare moved to court accusing Cipla Ltd and Surgipharm ltd of infringing on its trademarks and distributing drugs using names that sound similar.

The company said it was established in 1977 as a retail pharmacy but later transformed into an importer, marketer and distributor of pharmaceutical products.

Lords argued that it has developed products for decades and has gained a reputation over a number of trademarks, which it is still the registered proprietor.

However, it said Cipla and Surgipharm have been selling packets of drugs with a similar get up to those it was selling, hence infringing on its trademarks.

The company said the trademarks have been registered with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board and Kenya Intellectual Property Institute.

Cipla on its part said it has always been in control of its products, including manufacture and to who they would be sold to.

The court heard that to facilitate the registration of its pharmaceutical products, it would give Lords certain product information for each of the drugs to be distributed by the local firm on its behalf.

The process would culminate in the registration of the drugs and thereafter the issuance of Drug Registration Certificates by the Board in the name of Cipla.

The Indian company said it realized that Lords, through its new manufactures were using and marketing Cipla’s products as theirs (Lords).

Justice Majanja ruled that some of the disputed drugs are validly owned by Cipla.

“I, therefore, find and hold that the drug registration certificates belonging to CIPLA have been misappropriated by Lords,” the court said.

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