Intercontinental Addis ordered to change name

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(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

After a six year legal battle, the Lideta Federal High Court ruled in favor of Intercontinental Hotels Corporation (IHG), ordering JH Simex Plc to cease using the trade name ‘Intercontinental Addis’. The international chain sued both J.H. Simex and Semachew Kebede for using a trade name to attain unlawful enrichment.
The court also ordered the hotel, located in Kazanches, to stop using the name ‘Intercontinental Addis’ in advertisements, other equipment and also forfeit their website.
The court also ordered J.H. Simex Plc to pay 750,000 birr in compensation to Intercontinental Hotels Corporation with a nine percent interest. The court was unable to find legal documents needed to ascertain the hotel’s actual profits from tax offices and auditors since the hotel began operating.
Eyob Hagos, lawyer for Intercontinental Hotels Corporation told Capital that the compensation payment was unfair.
“Since 2006 Intercontinental Addis earned millions of USD in profit by using our trade name. Through simple mathematics one can see that they got a lot of money for their rooms. However, the court gave us a paltry sum of less than one million birr. We asked the court to call the relevant tax office to find out their actual revenue but the court did not want to do that,” he added.
The Court decide that ‘Intercontinental Addis’ and ‘Intercontinental Hotels’ are very similar and confusing to customers likely leading them to think Intercontinental Addis is a chain hotel of Intercontinental Hotels Corporation.
The defendant argued that the trade name for their hotel, registered as Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, is egg-shaped. Whereas, the local registration is simply listed as Intercontinental Hotel, and uses a rectangular shape.
The defendants stated that they did not violate the plaintiff’s ownership rights because the name was given by the proper authority after ensuring a response from what was at the time called the Ministry of Trade & Industry on August 21, 2006; hence, the trade name was not registered by another venture.
Five years ago, the High Court ruled in favor of the defendants, J.H. Simex, the company which administers the Intercontinental Addis and owner, Simachew Kebede, who was in jail for another corruption charge and later pardoned. It rejected IHG’s argument that they could be represented as a business without a registration and license from the country’s authorized body, and closed the case.
However, in 2016 The Cassation Bench of the Supreme Court reversed the High Court’s decision and allowed Intercontinental Hotels’ lawsuit against local hotel Intercontinental Addis to go forward.
The lawsuit began on March 29, 2013. Intercontinental Hotels Corporation was exclusively registered by the plaintiff at the former Ministry of Trade & Industry on October 2, 2001, and renewed by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) on October 1, 2013.