Diaz vs People (G.R. No. 180677 February 18, 2013)

Diaz vs People of the Philippines
G.R. No. 180677 February 18, 2013

Facts: Levi Strauss Philippines, Inc. (Levi’s Philippines) is a licensee of Levi’s. After receiving information that Diaz was selling counterfeit LEVI’S 501 jeans in his tailoring shops in Almanza and Talon, Las Piñas City, Levi’s Philippines hired a private investigation group to verify the information. Surveillance and the purchase of jeans from the tailoring shops of Diaz established that the jeans bought from the tailoring shops of Diaz were counterfeit or imitations of LEVI’S 501. Levi’s Philippines then sought the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for purposes of applying for a search warrant against Diaz to be served at his tailoring shops. The search warrants were issued in due course. Armed with the search warrants, NBI agents searched the tailoring shops of Diaz and seized several fake LEVI’S 501 jeans from them. Levi’s Philippines claimed that it did not authorize the making and selling of the seized jeans; that each of the jeans were mere imitations of genuine LEVI’S 501 jeans by each of them bearing the registered trademarks, like the arcuate design, the tab, and the leather patch; and that the seized jeans could be mistaken for original LEVI’S 501 jeans due to the placement of the arcuate, tab, and two-horse leather patch. Diaz stated that he did not manufacture Levi’s jeans, and that he used the label “LS Jeans Tailoring” in the jeans that he made and sold; that the label “LS Jeans Tailoring” was registered with the Intellectual Property Office; that his shops received clothes for sewing or repair; that his shops offered made-to-order jeans, whose styles or designs were done in accordance with instructions of the customers; that since the time his shops began operating in 1992, he had received no notice or warning regarding his operations; that the jeans he produced were easily recognizable because the label “LS Jeans Tailoring,” and the names of the customers were placed inside the pockets, and each of the jeans had an “LSJT” red tab; that “LS” stood for “Latest Style;” and that the leather patch on his jeans had two buffaloes, not two horses.

Issue: Whether or not Diaz is liable for trademark infringement.

Held: No. Section 155 of R.A. No. 8293 defines the acts that constitute infringement of trademark, viz:

Remedies; Infringement. — Any person who shall, without the consent of the owner of the registered mark:

155.1.  Use in commerce any reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation of a registered mark or the same container or a dominant feature thereof in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, advertising of any goods or services including other preparatory steps necessary to carry out the sale of any goods or services on or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive; or

155.2.  Reproduce, counterfeit, copy or colorably imitate a registered mark or a dominant feature thereof and apply such reproduction, counterfeit, copy or colorable imitation to labels, signs, prints, packages, wrappers, receptacles or advertisements intended to be used in commerce upon or in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of goods or services on or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive, shall be liable in a civil action for infringement by the registrant for the remedies hereinafter set forth: Provided, That the infringement takes place at the moment any of the acts stated in Subsection 155.1 or this subsection are committed regardless of whether there is actual sale of goods or services using the infringing material.

The elements of the offense of trademark infringement under the Intellectual Property Code are, therefore, the following:

  • The trademark being infringed is registered in the Intellectual Property Office;
  • The trademark is reproduced, counterfeited, copied, or colorably imitated by the infringer;
  • The infringing mark is used in connection with the sale, offering for sale, or advertising of any goods, business or services; or the infringing mark is applied to labels, signs, prints, packages, wrappers, receptacles or advertisements intended to be used upon or in connection with such goods, business or services;
  • The use or application of the infringing mark is likely to cause confusion or mistake or to deceive purchasers or others as to the goods or services themselves or as to the source or origin of such goods or services or the identity of such business; and
  • The use or application of the infringing mark is without the consent of the trademark owner or the assignee thereof.

As can be seen, the likelihood of confusion is the gravamen of the offense of trademark infringement. There are two tests to determine likelihood of confusion, namely: the dominancy test, and the holistic test. The contrasting concept of these tests was explained in Societes Des Produits Nestle, S.A. v. Dy, Jr., thus:

x x x. The dominancy test focuses on the similarity of the main, prevalent or essential features of the competing trademarks that might cause confusion. Infringement takes place when the competing   trademark contains the essential features of another.  Imitation or an effort to imitate is unnecessary.  The question is whether the use of the marks is likely to cause confusion or deceive purchasers.

The holistic test considers the entirety of the marks, including labels and packaging, in determining confusing similarity.  The focus is not only on the predominant words but also on the other features appearing on the labels.

The holistic test is applicable here considering that the herein criminal cases also involved trademark infringement in relation to jeans products. Accordingly, the jeans trademarks of Levi’s Philippines and Diaz must be considered as a whole in determining the likelihood of confusion between them. The maong pants or jeans made and sold by Levi’s Philippines, which included LEVI’S 501, were very popular in the Philippines. The consuming public knew that the original LEVI’S 501 jeans were under a foreign brand and quite expensive. Such jeans could be purchased only in malls or boutiques as ready-to-wear items, and were not available in tailoring shops like those of Diaz’s as well as not acquired on a “made-to-order” basis. Under the circumstances, the consuming public could easily discern if the jeans were original or fake LEVI’S 501, or were manufactured by other brands of jeans.

Given the foregoing, it should be plain that there was no likelihood of confusion between the trademarks involved. Thereby, the evidence of guilt did not satisfy the quantum of proof required for a criminal conviction, which is proof beyond reasonable doubt. According to Section 2, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court, proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof as, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainty.  Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind. Consequently, Diaz should be acquitted of the charges.