Sunday, March 18, 2012

In the Matter of Petition for Authority to Continue the Use of the Firm name “Sycip, Salazar, Feliciano, Hernandez & Castillo” (July 30, 1979)

Facts: The case involves two petitions. The first was filed by the surviving partners of Atty. Alexander Sycip who died on May 5, 1975 and the other by the surviving partners of Atty. Herminio Ozaeta who died on February 14, 1976 praying that they be allowed to continue using in the name of their firms the names of their deceased partners who had passed away. The petitioner anchored their petitions on the following: 1)that under the law, a partnership is not prohibited from continuing its business under a firm name which includes the name of a deceased partner; 2) that in regulating other professions, such as accountancy and engineering, the legislature has authorized the adoption of firm names without any restriction as to the use, in such firm name, of the name of a deceased partner; 3)that the Canons of Professional Ethics are not transgressed by the continued use of the name of a deceased partner in the firm name of a law partnership because Canon 33 of the Canons of Professional Ethics adopted by the American Bar Association declares that the continued use of the name of a deceased or former partner when permissible by local custom, is not unethical but care should be taken that no imposition or deception is practiced through this use; 4) that there is no possibility of imposition or deception because the deaths of their respective deceased partners were well-publicized in all newspapers of general circulation for several days; the stationeries now being used by them carry new letterheads indicating the years when their respective deceased partners were connected with the firm and; 5) that no local custom prohibits the continued use of a deceased partner's name in a professional firm's name.

Issue: Whether or not the petitioners should be allowed to use in their firm names the names of their deceased partners

Held: The court ruled in the negative. The court cited the following reasons. First is that Article. 1815 of the Civil Code provides that “Every partnership shall operate under a firm name, which may or may not include the name of one or more of the partners. Those who, not being members of the partnership, include their names in the firm name, shall be subject to the liability, of a partner” thus it is clearly tacit in the above provision that names in a firm name of a partnership must either be those of living partners’ and. in the case of non-partners, should be living persons who can be subjected to liability. Second, the courts said that a partnership for the practice of law cannot be likened to partnerships formed by other professionals or for business. For one thing, the law on accountancy specifically allows the use of a trade name in connection with the practice of accountancy. A partnership for the practice of law is not a legal entity. It is a mere relationship or association for a particular purpose. It is not a partnership formed for the purpose of carrying on trade or business or of holding property. Thus, it has been stated that "the use of a nom de plume, assumed or trade name in law practice is improper. And lastly while the court admits that it is true that Canon 33 does not consider as unethical the continued use of the name of a deceased or former partner in the firm name of a law partnership when such a practice is permissible by local custom but the Canon warns that care should be taken that no imposition or deception is practiced through this use. It must be conceded that in the Philippines, no local custom permits or allows the continued use of a deceased or former partner's name in the firm names of law partnerships.

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