In a recent legal battle that had food enthusiasts and legal experts closely watching, the Zimbabwean Supreme Court has issued a decisive ruling in favor of Chicken Inn, the renowned restaurant chain operated by Innscor Africa Limited. This high-stakes dispute revolved around the use of the word “luv” in their respective trademarks, with Chicken Inn alleging that its competitor, Slice Distributors’ Chicken Slice, was infringing on its trademark rights. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the case and its implications:
The ‘Luv’ Controversy:
Chicken Inn, a fixture in the Zimbabwean fast-food scene since its inception in 1987, contended that its trademark rights were being compromised by Chicken Slice. Specifically, they claimed that Chicken Slice’s Slice and Burger trademark, which includes the phrase “l luv it,” was infringing on their use of the word “luv.” Chicken Inn has a long history of using “luv” in its branding, dating back to their iconic “Luv dat chicken” trademark.
A Clash of Colors:
Beyond the “luv” dispute, Chicken Inn raised concerns about Chicken Slice’s color scheme, which they argued closely resembled their own. This similarity in both the trademarks and color choices, according to Chicken Inn, was leading to confusion among consumers, potentially affecting their brand’s reputation.
High Court Verdict:
Initially, the High Court delivered a ruling in favor of Chicken Slice. The presiding judge, Justice Sylvia-Chirawu Mugomba, reasoned that Chicken Inn did not hold an exclusive right to the word “luv.” Furthermore, she believed that consumers were unlikely to confuse the two brands.
Supreme Court Reversal:
Undeterred by the initial High Court verdict, Innscor Africa Limited, Chicken Inn’s parent company, chose to appeal the decision. The Zimbabwean Supreme Court has now overturned the original ruling, granting Innscor’s legal challenge. This reversal carries significant weight, as it orders Chicken Slice to immediately cease using the word “luv” in their trademark.
A History of Disputes:
This legal showdown is just one chapter in a longstanding feud between Chicken Inn and Chicken Slice. The two competitors have been embroiled in trademark disputes for years. A notable example from 2012 saw Innscor Africa Limited pursuing legal action against Takesure Mbano, alleging trademark infringement due to the perceived similarities between his planned ventures (Chickenza Inn, Creamy Chickenza, and Pizza Chickenza) and Chicken Inn’s well-established trademarks.
The Supreme Court’s decision represents a significant victory for Chicken Inn, reaffirming their rights to the use of “luv” in their branding. This case underscores the critical importance of trademark protection in a fiercely competitive business landscape and serves as a reminder of the potential for disputes when safeguarding brand identity. With a network of over 200 outlets spanning Zimbabwe and Africa, Chicken Inn can now proceed with renewed confidence in preserving its distinct brand image and market presence.