By African Times Special Correspondent
Nairobi’s Lady Justice Grace Nzioka dismissed the application filed by the defendants in a tussle over the engraving of beer bottles and referred other applications for further directions in the sister Court
The application by East African Breweries Ltd to dismiss a suit by 6 distributors who are contesting the engraving of the 500ml Beer bottles with EABL initials.
EABL, through lawyer Kamau Karori, argued for the striking out of the case saying that a similar matter, raising the same issues was pending before another judge.
This is in reference to Case 88 of 2016 in which Keroche Breweries has petitioned the court to stop EABL and Kenya Breweries Ltd from embossing the 500ml brown beer bottles commonly referred to as Euro bottles with ËABL initials.
The suit between the main protagonists EABL and Keroche Breweries over the 500ml Euro bottle will be heard on March 10th 2020.
Keroche in their suit accused EABL of using their dominant position to engage in restrictive trade practices in contravention of the Competitions Act.The distributors accuse EABL of working to drive them out of business by embossing beer bottles that have the universal shape with unique initials to prevent rivals from using them.
The six distributors are Alexander Mugo, Jacob Wamiti, Phasty Wachira, Samuel Kamau, Catherine Wanjiru and Herman Mwaura
Justice Grace Nzioki of the Milimani Commercial Division declined to strike out the distributor’s case terming =such a move as “draconian”. While quoting Retired Chief Justice Madan, Justice Nzioki asserted the right of the distributors to seek justice. She however agreed that the application by the distributors raised the same issues as Keroche Breweries and ordered for the two matters to be enjoined.
EABL had also filed an additional application seeking to censure the distributors accusing them of instigating media articles that discussed the Euro bottle issue thereby prejudicing the public. They insisted the judge’s order on 31st Dec 2019 barring the parties from commenting on the case had been flouted by bloggers and journalists who were “incited” by the distributors.
Justice Nzioki in her ruling cited the application as defective saying it would be erroneous to injuct parties not involved in the case.
She also reviewed articles quoted by EABL and pointed out there was no proof that the journalists who wrote the articles were doing it on behalf of the distributors.
She advised EABL to sue independently whoever they feel has prejudiced the case.
The contest between Keroche Breweries and EABL over the use of the 500ml brown beer bottles has elicited heated controversy drawing the involvement of different stakehoilders.
On 8th January 2020, the Council of County Bar Owners threatened to stage a nationawide protect against East African Breweries and Keroche Breweries unless the two resolved the Euro bottle controversy.
The bar owners said both Keroche and EABL had no right to claim ownership of the euro bottles since the containers existed before both companies were established in Kenya.
They decried the crackdown that has accompanies the row on bottles saying it was leading to harassment of bar owners.
On 15th January 2020, Lois Munzi, a bar owner in Kajiado, successfully petitioned the High Court to stop her prosecution on the charge of using EABL engraved Euro bottles at her Arusha Bar and Plan B Bar in Ilbissil town within Kajiado County.
Justice D.K Kemei, sitting at the High Court in Machakos, gave an order of prohibition barring the police or any other person from arraigning, charging or prosecuting Ms Munzi in relation to the use or possession of the 500Ml EURO bottle design bottle that is at the centre of a East African Breweries and Keroche Breweries contest.
In her petition to the High Court, Ms Munzi claimed that the marking of the bottles by EABL was being used to discourage bar owners from stocking competitors’ products.
The matter was referred to Justice Chacha on 4th February 2020 for further directions.