ZIMBABWE – Chicken Inn, a popular fast-food chain in Zimbabwe, has emerged to win a trademark infringement case against its local competitor, Chicken Slice.

The legal battle centred on the use of the word “luv” in Chicken Slice’s branding, particularly in its trademarked phrase, “I luv it.”

Chicken Inn, owned by Simbisa Brands, took legal action against Slice Distributors, the parent company of Chicken Slice, alleging trademark infringement and claiming that Chicken Slice’s branding was causing confusion among consumers.

In the initial round of the lawsuit, the High Court ruled against Chicken Inn, asserting that the fast-food chain did not possess an exclusive right to the word “luv.”

The court also noted that consumers were unlikely to be confused by the two competing brands.

Dissatisfied with this decision, Chicken Inn escalated the case to the Supreme Court, seeking a reversal of the ruling.

Recently, the Supreme Court issued its judgment in favour of Chicken Inn, stating that Chicken Slice had indeed violated Chicken Inn’s trademarks by incorporating the word “luv” in its marketing and promotional materials.

While the court upheld the claim of trademark infringement, it did not find evidence to support the assertion that Chicken Slice was attempting to pass off its products as those of Chicken Inn.

This legal victory underscored the significance of trademark protection in the corporate landscape and revealed the commitment of Zimbabwean courts to uphold trademark rights.

The case served as a cautionary tale for businesses contemplating the misappropriation or imitation of a competitor’s trademark.

It highlighted the potential legal consequences of engaging in practices that may mislead consumers and result in unfair competition.

In recent years, Zimbabwean courts have shown a willingness to adjudicate trademark disputes, emphasizing the need for businesses to protect their intellectual property.

“Trademark infringement not only erodes a company’s distinctiveness but can also lead to consumer confusion, harming a brand’s reputation and market position.”

The legal landscape in Zimbabwe, as demonstrated by this case, underscored the significance of adhering to trademark laws and respecting the intellectual property of others.

In October 2021, the Supreme Court settled the long-running trademark and trade dress infringement row pitting Cairns Foods Limited and Netrade Marketing Private Limited ruling that in Zimbabwe it is unlawful to copy another person’s trademark to sell your products with branding likely to mislead ordinary customers.

Cairns Foods had appealed against a High Court decision dismissing its lawsuit against Netrade, which was producing and selling a product called Royal Sun Jam, featuring the trademark and tread patterns that infringed Cairns Foods trademark.

Businesses must remain vigilant in safeguarding their trademarks and should seek legal recourse when they believe their intellectual property rights are being violated, according to the legal courts.