22 January 2019

Kenya: Firm Sues Beer EABL Over Brown Bottle Use

Photo: Phoebe Okall/The Nation
The bottling line at the East African Breweries Limited plant in Ruaraka, Nairobi (file photo).

An alcohol manufacturer has dragged to court giant brewer East African Breweries Limited (EABL) over a row on usage of brown beer bottles in the country.

FRM (EA) Packers Limited argues that the disputed brown beer bottles are universal but EABL is accusing the firm of using its trademarked brown bottles.

As a result of the disputed beer bottle row, the firm is also accusing EABL of instigating arrests and seizures on its products on grounds that their alcohol is illicit brew.

Through lawyer Peter King'ara, the firm has sued the Inspector General of the Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions and listed EABL together with its local subsidiary Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) as interested parties in its case.

"The respondents' officers in collusion with the interested parties have lodged a countrywide campaign of illegally, maliciously confiscating and detaining FRM's beer products as well as intimidating and arresting its agents, distributors and retailers who form part of the supply chain alleging that the goods are counterfeit," said Mr King'ara.

He added: "The firm is apprehensive that its agents, distributors and retailers will continue to be exposed to incarceration with the intended consequences of unjustifiable loss of liberty and business yet they are duly licensed, these actions are meant to stifle competition and drive FRM out of business."

TRADEMARK

According to FRM, the disputed brown bottles are not available to any beer manufacturer to trademark and that its usage started long before any beer maker in the country embarked on using them.

The firm argues that no one can claim novelty and that in the alcoholic beverage industry, the bottles are returnable and reusable besides being similar in shape, size and colour.

In the suit papers, the firm claimed that EABL first accused them of using its bottles to sell its Santa King Ice beer brand in December 2016 but the matter was resolved between them.

The firm alleged that there have been discriminatory campaigns against the said brand after it was labelled as counterfeit by EABL and KBL.

FRM is seeking unspecified compensation for unfair trade practice.

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