Court fixes December 1 to rule on NBC’s application to dismiss Rite Foods’ contempt Suit

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A Federal High Court in Lagos will on December 1 rule on an application seeking to set aside a contempt charge against the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC).

The application was filed by the NBC and its Managing Director, Matthieu Seguin.

Justice Ambrose Allagoa fixed the date after hearing arguments by counsel to the plaintiff (Rite Foods) and that of the defendants, NBC and its managing director, Matthieu Seguin.

The substantive passing-off suit was filed by Rite Foods before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke in March 2021. It is marked: FHC/L/CS/92/2021.

It obtained an ex parte order restraining NBC from passing off its energy drink, in a manner that was capable of infringing on its brand.

Following an application by the NBC challenging the validity of the order, Justice Aneke, on September 27, 2021, discharged the ex parte order.

At the resumed hearing of the contempt proceedings today before Justice Allagoa, Mr. Ngo-Martins Okonma, and Mr Oluseye Opasanya (SAN), representing NBC and its MD respectively, prayed the court to set aside the committal proceedings as the ex parte order complained of had been discharged by Justice Aneke.

On his part, Oluseye Opasanya (SAN) SAN, informed the court that the reason for the instant suit was not because interim orders were made, but that the second defendant was not even a party to the suit.

Counsel to NBC, Mr. Okonma also told the court that he filed an application dated October 15, 2021, and a motion on notice in respect of the application to regularise the application dated November 11.

In his motion on notice, he asked the court to set aside the committal proceeding in its entirety including all processes used by the plaintiff in the proceedings.

Subsequently, both counsels for NBC and its MD argued that since the said order upon which the committal proceedings was premised had been discharged by Justice Aneke on September 27, 2021, the court could not proceed to punish an alleged contemnor on the grounds of the breach.

NBC prayed the court to set aside the contempt suit and award punitive costs against Rite Foods if it finds no basis for the contempt proceedings.

Responding, the plaintiff’s counsel, Ogungbero, argued that flouting an existing order of a court does not redeem a contemnor from punishment.

He urged the court to so hold.

Upon hearing both motions, Justice Allagoa adjourned the ruling for the application till December 1, 2021.

NBC asserted in its statement of defence that there had been no trademark violation or passing off with its Predator Energy drink and that the Predator brand logo had been in existence and in use in many markets even prior to the launch of Fearless by Rite Foods in the Nigerian market.

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