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Fearless Drink: Court dismisses Rite Foods’ contempt suit against NBC

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The Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday dismissed the committal proceedings filed by Rite Foods Ltd against the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Ltd and Managing Director, Matthieu Seguin, over alleged trademark infringement.

Rite Foods had initiated proceedings before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court, wherein it obtained an exparte 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 the suit on the premise that Rite Foods’ applications were brought mala fide and were without merit as the suit lacked a firm ground to stand in law.

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Justice Aneke had on September 27, 2021, discharged the exparte order.

During proceedings before Justice Allagoa filed by Rite Foods, NBC 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 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.

Justice Allagoa held that the court cannot hold a party in contempt when the order had been declared invalid and set aside, noting that such order is no longer capable of being obeyed or enforced.

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The court therefore set aside the committal proceedings and other processes filed by Rite Foods against NBC and Seguin.

Counsel to NBC reiterated that both alleged contemnors (NBC and its MD) are entitled to punitive costs from Rite Foods as it initiated the committal proceedings subjecting them to a “needless” and “avoidable” legal battle.

Counsels to both defendants asked for the cost of N5,000,000 each against Rite Foods.

Rite Foods’ counsel did not concede to cost and urged the court to dismiss the application by the NBC’s counsel, claiming that the proceedings were filed in good faith.

Justice Allagoa recalled that the court advised Rite Foods not to proceed with the committal proceedings since the order has been discharged by Justice Aneke.

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Upon listening to the counsel’s submissions, the court awarded the cost of N1,000,000 against Rite Foods.

NBC insists there has been no trademark violation with its Predator Energy drink as the Predator Brand Logo had been in use in many other markets, prior to the launch of Fearless in Nigeria.

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