Rwandan fast food start-ups Pizza Inn, Chicken Inn to appeal brand verdict

Sunday March 11 2018

A Pizza Inn and Chicken Inn outlet.

A Pizza Inn and Chicken Inn outlet. The Rwandan fast food start-up lost a trademark case against Innscor. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION 

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Rwandan fast food start-ups Pizza Inn Ltd and Chicken Inn Ltd said they would appeal a verdict by Nyarugenge Commercial Court, which ordered them to stop trading using the two brand names.

According to the court, the names “infringe on registered trademarks.” The court ruled that the two brand names belong to Mauritius-based fast food giant Innscor, which registered the trademarks in Rwanda in February 2014.

Lawyers of Pizza Inn Ltd and Chicken Inn Ltd — both owned by a local entrepreneur Emille Murego — criticised the ruling, saying it sets “a bad precedent and discourages business.”

According to Jean Nepomuscene Mugengangabo, who represented the two companies, the court disregarded the fact that two companies were incorporated in Rwanda in 2013 and started using Pizza Inn and Chicken Inn as trade names in the same year, at a time when Innscor was not enjoying any protection in the country.

However, Innscor insisted in its court submissions that even though it registered its trademarks in Rwanda in 2014, it has been operating in many African countries, particularly in Uganda and Kenya.

The Nyarugenge Commercial Court said, “the continued use of the two names by the Rwandan companies is confusing and would lead to unfair competition against Innscor.”

Lawyer for Innscor Kizito Safari said the ruling would enable the firm to set up operations in the country. The multinational intends to operate a chicken and pizza inn as well as its other brands through franchise agreements.