The IP Tribunal in Zimbabwe, a specialised division of the High Court, handed down its first judgment recently in the matter of Lion Match Proprietary Limited v Lion Match Zimbabwe Limited IPT 01/16.
In this case, a very old South African company that makes matches and sells them under the trademark Lion had for many years used that trade mark in Zimbabwe. It eventually withdrew from Zimbabwe, thereby allowing its former Zimbabwean subsidiary to take over both the Zimbabwean trademark and the Zimbabwean business. After many years, however, the Zimbabwean company stopped trading, seemingly because of the tough economic conditions in that country. The company also allowed its trademark registration to lapse.
The South African company then re-entered the Zimbabwean market and when it applied to register the trademark in its name, the Zimbabwean company filed its own application. The registrar had to decide which application should prevail.
The registrar found for the Zimbabwean company, saying that its non-use had been justified by the harsh economic circumstances in that country. The court, however, reversed the decision. In the court's view it was relevant that the three-year period within which a lapsed registration can be restored had already expired. The Zimbabwean company's application had to be treated as a new one and the legal maxim "he has better title who was first in point of time" had to prevail. Therefore the South African company's application went through.
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