intellectual property

Cyma drama: SC ends Greek restaurant’s trademark dispute

Lance Spencer Yu

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Cyma drama: SC ends Greek restaurant’s trademark dispute

Alejandro Edoria/Rappler

Cyma's trademark battle began after the partnership between chef Robby Goco and Manuel Zulueta fell apart

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) put to rest the decades-long trademark dispute over the popular Greek restaurant Cyma.

The SC rejected the claim that the Cyma trademark is the brainchild of Manuel Zulueta, who partnered with chef Raoul “Robby” Goco to launch the Greek restaurant’s inaugural branch.

The dispute traces its origins back to December 2005, when Zulueta claimed he and Goco first collaborated to launch the Cyma restaurant in Boracay. According to Zulueta, he invited Goco to create the restaurant’s menu.

The two subsequently registered a partnership in the name of Cyma Greek Taverna Company with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2006. Later that year, the duo put up a branch of the Greek restaurant at the Shangri-La Plaza mall, which they registered with the SEC under Cyma Greek Taverna Shangri-La Corporation.

On September 25, 2006, Zulueta filed a trademark application for Cyma and its logo under his own name, asserting that the mark was his idea.

A few months later in November 2006, Zulueta then claimed that while he was abroad, Goco and his sister executed an allegedly dubious deed of assignment, transferring Zulueta’s entire interest in the Cyma partnership to Goco’s sister.

In a countermove, the Cyma partnership filed its own trademark application for Cyma Greek Taverna and its logo in March 2007. The mark is nearly identical to the one filed by Zulueta, except the logo includes the words “Greek Taverna” in it.

The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) eventually approved the Cyma partnership’s application, a ruling which was also upheld by the Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, the partnership also stiffly opposed Zulueta’s trademark application, arguing that he “falsely represented himself to have been the originator of the trademark when the truth was that it had been copied from Cyma partnership’s trademark.”

SC’s verdict

So who was the true creator of the Cyma trademark? If you ask the Cyma partnership, it was conceptualized by Goco while vacationing in Greece and was first used in a test kitchen restaurant in Boracay. And the SC appears to agree.

The High Court, in its decision, rejected Zulueta’s petition and emphasized that while the general rule is that ownership of a mark is acquired through the “first-to-file” rule, applications tainted with bad faith are void from the outset.

“The first-to-file rule should not be taken to mean that in all cases, the first application to be filed should be the application that is granted,” the SC said in a press release.

“The findings of the IPOPHL show that Zulueta’s trademark application was done in bad faith,” it added.

As a partner, the High Court said, Zulueta was fully aware of the prior use of the trademark by the Cyma partnership. The SC further noted that even if Zulueta had conceived the mark, it was clear that it was intended for the exclusive use of the partnership. –

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Lance Spencer Yu

Lance Spencer Yu is a multimedia reporter who covers the transportation, tourism, infrastructure, finance, agriculture, and corporate sectors, as well as macroeconomic issues.