G.R. No. 131502 – 333 SCRA 390 – Mercantile Law – Intellectual Property – Law on Copyright – Forum Shopping – Litis Pendentia
Remedial Law – Civil Procedure – Rule 36 – Judgment – Body vs Dispositive Portion
Wilson Ong Ching Kian Chung is selling vermicelli (sotanghon) using his copyrighted cellophane wrapper with the two-dragons designed label. In 1993, Wilson Ong sued Lorenzo Tan for infringing upon his copyrighted cellophanes. Wilson Ong alleged that Tan was importing sotanghon from China National Cereals Oils and Foodstuffs Import and Export Corporation and then Tan would use Wilson Ong’s copyrighted cellophanes to sell the sotanghon.
While the case was pending before the Quezon City RTC, China National Cereals filed another complaint to cancel the copyright of Wilson Ong before the Manila RTC. Judge Palattao of the Manila RTC issued a temporary restraining order enjoining Wilson Ong from using his copyrighted cellophanes.
Eventually, Wilson Ong appealed before the Court of Appeals questioning the TRO. The Court of Appeals in the body of its decision cited that the case before the Manila RTC should have been dismissed because of litis pendentia and forum shopping, there being an existing case before the QC RTC which is a co-equal court of the Manila RTC. But in the dispositive portion of the CA decision, it said that the Manila RTC has the discretion to dismiss the case. Manila RTC did not dismiss the case but rather it ordered the cancellation of Wilson Ong’s copyright. The Manila RTC invoked that though the CA cited forum shopping and litis pendentia as grounds for dismissing the case the CA did not order Manila RTC to actually dismiss the case but rather it gave the Manila RTC the discretion to continue hearing the case.
ISSUE: Whether or not the Manila RTC is correct.
HELD: No. The general rule states that the dispositive portion of a Judgment becomes the subject of execution. The dispositive portion prevails over the body of the decision.
The exception where the dispositive part of the judgment does not always prevail over the body of the opinion are: (a) where there is ambiguity or uncertainty, the body of the opinion may be referred to for purposes of construing the judgment because the dispositive part of a decision must find support from the decision’s ratio decidendi; and (b) where extensive and explicit discussion and settlement of the issue is found in the body of the decision.
The Quezon City court and the Manila court have concurrent jurisdiction over the case. However, when the Quezon City court acquired jurisdiction over the case, it excluded all other courts of concurrent jurisdiction from acquiring jurisdiction over the same. The Manila court is, therefore, devoid of jurisdiction over the complaint filed resulting in the assailed decision which must perforce be declared null and void. To hold otherwise would be to risk instances where courts of concurrent jurisdiction might have conflicting orders.