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Messy family feud

Green Cross case goes to IPO

/ 12:13 AM March 04, 2017

After the Supreme Court reopened the doors on their bid to recover their father’s business legacy, the heirs of entrepreneur Gonzalo Co It are now moving to take back ownership of the “Green Cross” and “Zonrox” brands at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) which has taken a second look at the decades-long trademark dispute.

Lawyer Lorna Kapunan said the Green Cross-Zonrox cases in the IPO would have an impact not only on the Co It heirs’ legal battle on who really owned these brands but also on Filipino inventors and pioneering entrepreneurs seeking to claim their rightful stake on products churned out from their ingenuity and hard work.

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In an interview with Inquirer, Kapunan said that Green Cross-Zonrox brands ownership dispute should put more light on the plight of Filipinos who have not profited from their inventions and original brands because corporations and individuals have used murky rules, lead-footed regulators and high cost of litigation to their advantage to box out the rightful owners.

Stealing goodwill

“Most people don’t realize that a brand name represents the goodwill of the inventor or entrepreneur who started and marketed the brand. If you steal a car, that’s theft. An IP (intellectual property) is intangible, if you steal a trademark you are stealing goodwill. That is where the IPO is needed to be on the side of Filipino inventors and entrepreneurs,” Kapunan said.

In Co It’s case, Kapunan said Gonzalo had started building goodwill on the Green Cross and Zonrox brands way back in 1952 when the then 32-year-old put up a sole proprietorship he called Gonzalo Laboratories. Co It used to work as an employee of the defunct Manila Commercial trading firm which sold Grey Cross, an American brand of isopropyl alcohol. Co It concocted his own alcohol brand and named it Green Cross after the colors of his alma mater, De La Salle University.

“Gonzalo sold Green Cross alcohol door-to-door; which was the reason why it became a household name,” Kapunan said. In 1954, Co It came up with the Zonrox bleach brand and used the same old style of marketing—going to pharmacies, grocery stores and supermarkets with his free samples and sales pitches.

The patents to these brands were  transferred in 2004 to Green Cross Inc. (the new name of Gonzalo Laboratories after it became a corporation in 1971) which has been the subject of a messy family squabble where Co It has been excluded from any share of the multi-billion enterprise by his own siblings and their children.

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TAGS: family business feud, Gonzalo Co, Green Cross, Intellectual Property Office, trademark dispute, Zonrox
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