General Information Lawsuits

Ramar Foods & Magnolia Ice Cream USA


San Miguel isn’t allowed to sell its Magnolia ice cream in the United States.

Do you know why?



Magnolia is a Philippine ice-cream brand whose origins clearly go back to the 1920s. It has belonged to the San Miguel Corporation for most of its history.

IP Philippines Registration No. 42004005904
San Miguel Corporation, Philippines

In the 1970s, a completely unaffiliated Filipino American family in Northern California started marking their own ice-cream products with the “Magnolia” name in order to surf on the goodwill that the original Magnolia had developed among Filipinos from the old country. (This assertion was voiced by U.S. federal judge Richard Clifton himself during oral arguments in Case No. 13-55537.)

The Quesada family, operating as the Ramar company, filed a trademark application in the early 1990’s claiming the Magnolia mark for their exclusive use in the United States, based on their use of that name and logo for decades. The fact that San Miguel had been using the Magnolia name and logo for much longer in the Philippines and was the originator of that brand name was irrelevant under U.S. law. 

USA trademark serial number: 74297882
Ramar Foods, California, USA

To this day, many Filipino Americans assume that the Magnolia ice-cream they eat in the United States is related to the Magnolia in the Philippines. It is not.

The U.S. brand name and company logo are strikingly similar to the homeland’s original, but it is California’s Ramar Foods, and not the Philippines’ San Miguel, that’s profiting. Ramar’s rationale behind the appropriation is that San Miguel “did not have the vision to know they could sell to Filipinos here.” In effect, brand-name piracy is considered smart business sense in the United States. It may be unethical, but it’s legal.

In 2005, the Wall Street Journal focused on this particular brand-name piracy issue, in which companies in the United States appropriate trademarks from overseas. The article noted that the trend has been buoyed by U.S. immigrants who favor buying the traditional brands they cherished in their home countries. Not surprisingly, these consumers are quick to assume that a product in the U.S. with a name from home is the product they grew up with. In this case, it is not.

There have been many legal cases involving Ramar vs. Magnolia, including Ramar’s recent efforts to prevent San Miguel from selling Magnolia butter, margarine, and cheese in the United States. It is a classic example of using U.S. law to bully a non-USA company, and even the judges in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California appear to recognize it as such.


903.01 Date of First Use Anywhere

The date of first use anywhere is the date when the goods were first sold or transported or the services were first rendered under the mark, if such use is bona fide and in the ordinary course of trade. For every applicant, whether foreign or domestic, the date of first use of a mark is the date of the first use anywhere, in the United States or elsewhere, regardless of whether the nature of the use was local or national, intrastate or interstate, or of another type.


In its trademark filing for the Magnolia name, RAMAR made the following declarations:

First Use Anywhere: 1/1/1972
First Use In Commerce: 1/1/1972



There has never been a licensing agreement between the U.S. company Ramar, which started using the Magnolia trade dress in the 1970s, and the Philippine company San Miguel, which had developed the Magnolia brand for many decades earlier.



Sources and Further Reading:

San Miguel battles Magnolia trademark holder to sell in US (2012)
The San Miguel Group is battling a Filipino-American food manufacturer in California, which had beaten it in securing an identical Magnolia trademark in the United States.

Ramar Foods opposed the application of San Miguel Corporation to register the mark Magnolia for ice cream (1991, 1993)

Magnolia Ice Cream: Ramar Foods versus San Miguel Corporation (Storify)

In 2000, the Philippine Islands’ largest conglomerate, San Miguel Corp., lost a long legal fight to stop a California company, Ramar Foods, from selling Magnolia ice cream, a brand San Miguel owned. From its Oakland factory, Ramar produced flavors that were nearly identical to Magnolia’s — lychee, avocado, corn-cheese and ube — and used packaging and logos very similar to the Filipino company’s. However, there has never been a licensing agreement between Ramar and San Miguel. Ramar was able to get away with making profits off Magnolia’s trade name and trademark logo, because Ramar had filed an application for those in the United States and asserted that it had been using that name and logo for decades. The fact that San Miguel had been using the Magnolia name and logo for much longer in the Philippines and was the originator of that brand identity was overlooked by the U.S. trademark examiners.

Don’t Sit and Wait: Stopping Trademark Squatters

San Miguel was founded in 1890 and is one of the Philippines’ most diversified conglomerates, with a workforce of over 15,000 generating close to three percent of the country’s gross national product. The company is perhaps best known for San Miguel Beer, its flagship product, which is among the top ten beer brands in the world. One of San Miguel’s better known brands is Magnolia, its dairy product subsidiary. From its start in 1925, Magnolia branded ice cream was one of the most recognizable and enduring brands in the Philippines and is the oldest Asian ice cream.

Transcript: Ramar International vs. San Miguel Pure Foods (2015)

Ramar’s lawyer insinuates before the court that San Miguel will be selling “moldy cheese” under the Magnolia brand in the United States. Though repeatedly being reminded that product quality is of no relevance to the legal points being debated, Ramar’s lawyer keeps sneaking in the assertion that products made by San Miguel, a major Philippine company with a long history of consumer trust in Asia, are inferior.


Lawsuits Against Phil-Am Food

PhilAm Food / Phil-Am Merchandising Inc. / Philam Merchandising
Address: 683 Newark Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07306

There have been at least THREE (3) known lawsuits filed against PhilAm Food of New Jersey.

Now known as Filstop, this is the Jersey City grocery store, which has been accused in a federal lawsuit of encroaching on the legal rights of the Phil-Am wholesaler, a completely separate company that wants to have nothing to do with Phil Am Food or its business practices.


Lawsuit filed against PhilAm Food owner Erwin Santos and Phil-Am Merchandising

This is ongoing as of October 2016.

Docket information:


Case Number: 2:2013cv01168
Filed: February 26, 2013
Court: New Jersey District Court
Office: Newark Office
County: Hudson
Referring Judge: Mark Falk
Presiding Judge: William J. Martini
Nature of Suit: Labor: Fair Standards
Cause of Action: 29:201 Fair Labor Standards Act

Details can be found here:


Case Number: 2:2015cv07132
Filed: September 28, 2015
Court: New Jersey District Court
Office: Newark Office
County: Hudson
Referring Judge: Leda D. Wettre
Presiding Judge: Susan D. Wigenton
Nature of Suit: Trademark
Cause of Action: 15:1125
Jury Demanded By: Plaintiff

Read the details: Phil-Am Trading wholesaler vs Phil-Am Food grocery store

685 Newark Ave, Jersey City, New Jersey 07306-2839
Phone: (201) 963-0455 Fax: (201) 963-0446
Name changed to Filstop Inc


(Lawsuit) Phil-Am Trading vs Philam Food

The East Coast’s leading Filipino American wholesaler Phil-Am Trading filed suit against grocery store Phil-Am Food Merchandising for encroaching on the wholesaler’s rights under the law.
In good faith, Trading expended a great deal of time and money in two attempts to settle the matter without the need for litigation. On both occasions, Phil-Am Trading and Phil-Am Food negotiated mutually acceptable settlement agreements, only to have Phil-Am Food (Erwin Santos) renege at the last minute without any real dispute as to the salient terms of settlement. Most recently, in September 2015, Phil-Am Food reneged on a fully negotiated settlement agreement.

Ultimately, Phil-Am Trading felt compelled to file this lawsuit in federal court in order to have the judiciary enforce the settlement agreement and ensure that Phil-Am Food adhere to the terms.

Damage award sought: no less than $1,000,000

The Phil-Am Food grocery store is owned by Erwin Santos with its registered corporate name actually being Phil-Am Merchandising. There are two other publicly known lawsuits filed against it and its owners, the Santos Family.

There are no known lawsuits filed against the wholesaler Phil-Am Trading or its owners, the Arcilla family. Vice President Derrick Arcilla is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Economics.

For those familiar with this Jersey City scandal that involves two branches of one extended family, the small grocery store Phil-Am Food had long been in the shadow of the wholesaler Phil-Am Trading’s stellar reputation.

Phil-Am Food itself has reportedly been the subject of several state and federal investigations and/or sanctions for improper food handling, illegal food sales, and other violations. There was even a federal lawsuit filed based on the Fair Labor Standards Act, which alleged the failure to pay law-mandated overtime pay to hundreds of workers over the years.

Many Filipino-American retail stores who procure wholesale products, and even self-described friends of the Phil-Am Food principals, have come to assume that Phil-Am Food and Phil-Am Trading are one and the same operation or at least working in cooperation. Nothing could be further from the truth. There seems to be large-scale animosity (translation: HATE) between the two companies.

Original 21-page complaint filed by Phil-Am Trading to commence legal proceedings against PhilAm Food Merchandising is available for download in PDF here.


San Miguel Philippines vs. Ramar Foods USA

Sa mga hindi nakakaalam, ang San Miguel Corporation ang unang lumikha at nagpausbong sa tatak ng Magnolia ice cream sa Pilipinas noon pang dekada 1920. Hanggang ngayon, ang San Miguel pa rin ang nagmamay-ari sa pangalan at kilalang logo ng Magnolia sa Pilipinas.

Ganunpaman, may pamilya sa California ang nagsimulang gumamit sa pangalan at kaparehong logo ng Magnolia noong 1970s. Ang pangalan ng pamilyang ito ay Quesada at ang tawag nila sa kanilang kumpanya ay Ramar.

Habang may nangyayaring corporate restructuring sa SMC noong 1990s, nakuha ng Ramar na iparehistro ang Magnolia sa Estados Unidos. Sa kanilang aplikasyon, sinabi nila na ang “First Use in Commerce Anywhere” ng Magnolia ay 1972. Sa laking gulat ng marami, binalewala ng mga Amerikanong trademark examiner na ang totoong petsa ay 1920s.

Hanggang ngayon, ang nakararami sa ating mga kababayan ay nag-aakalang ang “Magnolia” ice cream na binibili nila sa Estados Unidos at Canada ay ang produktong kinalakihan ng mga Pinoy sa Pilipinas. Mali ang pag-aakalang ito. Kahit pareho ang logo, walang kinalaman ang San Miguel Philippines sa paggawa ng Ramar ng ice cream o anupamang frozen meats. Iba ang sangkap. Iba ang teknolohiya. Iyan rin ang dahilan kung bakit walang AlDub flavors tulad ng Avocado Macchiato na mabibili sa Amerika.

Ito ang memorandum na ipinalabas ng Ninth Circuit Court sa isang kaso na kinasasangkutan ng Ramar Foods at San Miguel Philippines.