POSTSCRIPT / October 2, 2003 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Bush doesn’t trust his Batasan hosts?

INSULT TO CONGRESS: We’re amused by a knot of opposition lawmakers wailing against US Secret Service men virtually taking over the Batasan to prepare it for the supposed address before a joint session of Congress by President George W. Bush later this month.

Actually, the protesting solons have a point. Oo nga naman, why should an invited guest arrogate upon himself control of his host’s house? For security? That is an insult to the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The option for Bush is clear: If he does not feel safe being among our senators and congressmen gathered in the Batasan chamber, all he has to do is stay away.

Same thing with complaining congressmen. If they don’t want to listen to Bush, all they have to do is keep away from the joint session. If they are not interested in his “pasalubong” for them, sila rin.

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SECURITY FEINT: But first, is the US President really bent on inserting an address before Congress in his hurried parachute visit? Will the boss of the world’s superpower bother to sprinkle saliva on our lawmakers?

Our gut feel as a grizzled newspaperman tells us that Bush will not address a joint session. We will believe it only when Dubya steps into the hall with his phalanx of security men and starts delivering his speech.

We have a lurking feeling that all that big to-do about refurbishing the premises and making it security-tight is but for show. The flurry of preparation might be meant to mislead those planning to harm the US President.

Even the preparation at the international airport may turn out to be just a feint. The magic carpet Air Force One bearing the Great White Father might just land somewhere else.

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COPYRIGHT ROW: If there is a newspaper called Daily News, can another businessman still publish another newspaper called Today’s News? Is using the trade name “Today’s News” an infringement of copyright?

Can the owner of Daily News plead that since he has the copyright on the name “Daily News,” any other newspaper calling itself “(Something else) News” should not be allowed to be printed, distributed and sold?

Any right-thinking person will answer “No.” Daily News cannot stop Today’s News — if it has all the required business permits — from circulating in the free market.

The reason is simple: The first copyright is for the name “Daily News” and not for “(Something else) News.” The word “News” is generic. Nobody owns it and nobody may enjoy a copyright on it.

The market is wide open for such other names as “Scoop News,” “Hot News,” “Headline News,” “FrontPage News,” and the like.

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GENERIC GINEBRA: A similar debate is raging in court and in the beverage market. There is an alcoholic drink of long-standing called “Ginebra San Miguel.” Last May, another distillery came up with another drink called “Ginebra Kapitan.”

Is there an infringement of copyright? Can “Kapitan” be validly barred from being sold side by side with “San Miguel”? As we see it, the obvious answer is “No.”

Using the same logic, we think there is no infringement of copyright since Ginebra San Miguel is clearly different from Ginebra Kapitan. The word “Ginebra” (Spanish for “gin”) is not part of the argument since it is a generic term that cannot be protected by copyright.

With the generic term “Ginebra” out of the question, the only elements left for comparison are the names “San Miguel” and “Kapitan” — which are clearly worlds apart.

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JUDGE CONFUSED?: Yet a regional trial judge in Mandaluyong did not spot the glaring difference.

Judge Edwin D. Sorongon of the Mandaluyong RTC Branch 214 issued Sept. 23 a TRO (temporary restraining order) for the makers of Ginebra Kapitan not to manufacture, distribute and sell the drink in competition with Ginebra San Miguel.

The judge said the two products are “nearly identical and confusingly similar.” We checked San Miguel and Kapitan bottled gin yesterday and, with due respect to the judge, we saw no confusion between the two products.

Your honor, why don’t we just leave it to our drinkers to make their choice? Since they know their gin, they are the best judge.

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P112-M DAMAGE: Introduced by Tanduay Distillers Inc. in Northern Luzon, Ginebra Kapitan is about P4 cheaper than Ginebra San Miguel. It sells around 20,000 cases a month to San Miguel’s 1.5 million.

Its taller and slimmer bottle features a resealable cap, unlike the plain crown (“tansan”) of San Miguel. Their using similarly clear bottles is a dictate of the industry, in the same way that beer comes in similarly dark bottles to block sunlight.

We heard that Tanduay filed yesterday a P112-million damage suit as a result of the TRO stopping its sale. Earlier, San Miguel had to post a P1-million bond to answer for any undeserved damages to the respondents.

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EARLIER BEER WAR: San Miguel boss Danding Cojuangco might want to tell his boys to cool it and fight it out fair and square in the market. After all, if Ginebra San Miguel, which now dominates the field, is really that good, a newcomer gin will not hurt it.

Tanduay said the real issue is the uprooting of monopolies in a supposedly free market. It insisted on respect for the right of consumers to a wider choice of products and services.

In an earlier legal tiff with Asia Brewery Inc., the mother outfit of Tanduay, San Miguel lost a lengthy and costly legal copyright and patent case. San Miguel went to court to stop the introduction of “Beer na Beer” that competed with San Miguel Pale Pilsen.

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REGISTRATION BLUES: Our Postscript TextService and our email inbox are teeming with readers’ comments on the registration of voters. A sample horror story is this email from Jean Alonzo of Manila:

“I was supposed to work, but I took a leave just to be able to register at Comelec (near Manila City Hall). I live in Manila but transferred districts when I got married, so I brought with me all the papers that I think Comelec may require (regarding my surname, status and address changes).

“Like Dr. Walter Villanueva (Postscript, 30Sep2003), the first thing I saw was trash everywhere outside and inside the Comelec building. Registration and validation for Districts 4-6 were located in one hallway that was about 10 meters by 4 meters.

“The stuffy hallway had no window. The only electric fan was near the door at one end of the hallway, so people at the other end did not feel much air. Too many people crammed into too little space. Grabe!

“Yung mga lalaki nakahubad na, yung mga babae naman akala mo naligo ng may damit. Pero yung mga Comelec staff naka-aircon, maybe because of the Data Capture Machine. Pero sana buksan naman nila yung pinto nila para makalabas naman yung hangin.

“I asked for the form for ‘Transfers’ (or whatever they call it). I was given a computer-generated form and told to make six copies. Teka lang! Di ba may funds ang Comelec? Bakit ko kailangang ipa-photocopy yung form? Saan napunta yung pera para sa printing ng form na iyon?

“Until now, I haven’t been able to register. The day I took leave from work was wasted. No wonder there is a low turnout of registered voters.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 2, 2003)

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