PNP vows to arrest Red Bull execsBy Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday assured a local food and drink company it would enforce the arrest warrants issued against officials of the Thailand-based manufacturer of Red Bull Energy Drink and its local distributor for alleged violation of the intellectual property law.
Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., PNP spokesperson, said all police units nationwide were mandated by law to immediately serve the arrest warrants on the respondents in the criminal case filed by Energy Food and Drinks Inc. (EFDI).
“As a law enforcement agency, we have no choice but to implement the arrest warrants as soon as we receive them. That’s part of our duty,” said Cerbo, of the resolutions issued separately by a regional trial court and a municipal trial court in Legazpi City against officials of T.C. Pharmaceutical Industries Co. Ltd. (TCP), the manufacturer of Red Bull Supreme Energy Drink and its local distributor, Maryland Distributors Inc. (MDI).
The courts issued the arrest warrants after the Department of Justice (DOJ) recommended the indictment of the TCP and MDI officers for violation of Republic Act No. 8293, or the 1997 Intellectual Property Code, and RA 3720, otherwise known as the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1963.
The DOJ said the respondents “acted in unison” in violating the intellectual property rights of EFDI as the exclusive distributor of Red Bull Supreme Energy Drink in the Philippines.
Ordered arrested were TCP’s Supreeya Yoovidhya, Pavana Langthara, Visuit Chiemkitchavarote, Suthirat Yoovidhya and Nucharee Yoovidhya, as well as MDI’s Gina Tolentino, Ramoncito Abad, Gino Baltao, Nelson Escobar and Benjamin Ros.
How it all began
The regional trial court set P10,000 bail for the release of each of the accused while the municipal trial court imposed P6,000 bail for each. The five MDI officers, who are in the Philippines, immediately posted bail last week.
The arrest warrants stemmed from a complaint filed by former Red Bull distributor EFDI, owned by the Chua family, which claimed it had a certificate of product registration for Red Bull from the Bureau of Food and Drugs until March 31, 2013.
TCPI, however, ended its partnership with EFDI in 2009 and signed a contract with MDI as the exclusive distributor of Red Bull energy drink products in the Philippines.
EFDI sued the officials of TCP and MDI after it found out that Red Bull products being sold in the Philippines had “MDI” labels superimposed on the portion of the label that identified EFDI as the product’s exclusive local distributor.
The complaint filed by EFDI against TCPI in Legazpi City was initially dismissed by the city prosecutor of Legazpi City, but Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar on June 21 reversed the city prosecutor’s decision.
In a resolution, Salazar ruled that a food product “shall be deemed misbranded if its labeling is false or misleading in any particular manner.”
“Since complainant EFDI was the exclusive distributor, its name must be indicated in the label of Red Bull products. In the instant case, however, the bottles of Red Bull bore tampered stickers/labels,” Salazar said.
Responding to the arrest warrant, TCPI said it could not understand why local courts in the Philippines would issue an arrest warrant “based on a groundless criminal allegation that a former distributor lodged against us.”
TCPI added: “How can we be remotely said to be in violation of the intellectual property law, when we are in truth and in fact the owners of the intellectual property right, which in this case is the Red Bull brand?”
TCPI terminated its distribution agreement with EFDI on Oct. 31, 2008. Records indicated that EFDI had ceased business operations on Dec. 31, 2009, as shown by its manifestation filed before the court.