I own a small business making and selling fish sauce. I use gin bottles that I collect and clean as the container for my products. I was able to sell successfully my products in our province. However, I received a letter from the manufacturer of the gin bottles that I use. The said letter was ordering me to stop my use of their bottles, return them and pay them for my unauthorized use of their bottles. They are mentioning Republic Act No. 623 as their basis in requiring me to stop my use of their bottles. What does this law say and can they legally stop me from my current practice in using their bottles? Any advice will be appreciated.
It appears from your narration that the manufacturer of the marked bottles that you are using cited Republic Act (RA) No. 623 to stop you from using their marked bottles and claim compensation for your use of the same in your fish sauce business. Because of this, it is necessary that we examine what this law states with regard to your query.
RA 623, as amended by RA 5700, is the law that regulates the use of duly stamped or marked bottles and other similar containers. According to this law, it is unlawful for any person, without written consent of the manufacturer who has successfully registered the marks of ownership, to fill the marked or stamped bottle for the purpose of sale and use it for any purpose other than that registered by the manufacturer (Sec. 2). The law also states that the use and possession of such marked containers without that written permission of the manufacturer gives rise to a prima facie presumption that such use or possession is unlawful (Sec. 3).
Despite this express prohibition against the use of marked bottles for other purposes aside from those intended by the registered manufacturer, there is a provision in this law that provides for an exemption from this, to wit:
“Sec. 6. The provision of this Act shall not be interpreted as prohibiting the use of bottles as containers for “sisi,” “bagoong,” “patis,” and other similar native products.” (Ibid)
It appears from this above cited provision that products such as patis and other native condiments are allowed to use marked bottles as an exemption from the aforementioned prohibition. Considering how such products, including the fish sauce you produce, are exempted from the above cited law, it appears that you have a legal reason to continue the use of marked bottle as container of your fish sauce product.
This exemption is emphasized and even considered as a necessity by the Honorable Supreme Court in one of its decisions that cited Sec. 6 of RA 623 to rule in favor of allowing the use of marked bottled by condiment manufacturers. According to the Honorable Supreme Court:
“However, the exemption granted in Sec. 6 thereof was deemed extremely necessary to provide assistance and incentive to the backyard, cottage and small-scale manufacturers of indigenous native products such as patis, sisi and toyo who do not have the capital to buy brand new bottles as containers nor afford to pass the added cost to the majority of poor Filipinos who use the products as their daily condiments or viands.” (GR No. 123248, October 16, 1997, Ponente, Honorable former Supreme Court Justice Josue Bellosillo)
As clearly seen from RA 623 and the cited jurisprudence, while there is a clear prohibition against the unauthorized use of marked bottled for purposes other than intended by the manufacturer, the use of such bottles as container of condiments is allowed and exempted by law from the aforementioned prohibition. Thus, you may rightfully continue the use of marked bottles as container for your fish sauce product in accordance with the exemption provided by the law.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org