Beyond Trademark Infringement: Bold Government Plan to Switch off Fake Phones

The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has announced a two step approach to phase out counterfeit phones in Kenya. In the first phase, mobile operators are supposed to stop activating new SIM cards used on counterfeit handsets with effect from the end of this month. The second phase is to de-activate all counterfeit phones starting from December 31, 2011.

The Anti Counterfeit Agency (ACA) estimates that Sh3.2 billion is lost annually through tax evasion and sale of counterfeit phones. One of the main problems that the ACA faces in enforcing the Anti Counterfeit Act has been lack of complaints from mobile phone manufacturers whose products are being counterfeited. According to the Act, the ACA can only exercise its enforcement and prosecutorial powers once a complainant comes forward. Hence the ACA works closely with both the Kenya Police and Customs Agents from the Kenya Revenue Authority to ensure that counterfeit products entering the country or circulating within the country are inspected and seized. However the ACA has for a long time complained that mobile phone manufacturers (through their licensed distributors in Kenya) do not come forward and complain or even share information in their possession regarding counterfeits and counterfeiters at large. The ACA reckons that most of the mobile phone manufacturers are afraid that reporting counterfeiters to the police will negatively affect their market share and erode the goodwill associated with their trademarks.

Continue reading

Kenya Shares Lessons With Botswana on Protecting Copyright and Neighbouring Rights

This week I spoke with visiting representatives from the Copyright Office of Botswana which is under their Registrar of Companies and Intellectual Property (ROCIP) and compared notes on the administration and enforcement of copyright and related rights in our respective countries.

The Botswana’s Copyright Office is in fact still in its infancy. It has only four members of staff who are meant to cater for the entire country. The Industry Property Department is slightly better with about 15 members of staff. Out of the four employees in the Copyright Office of Botswana, only 2 of them have special training in Intellectual Property courtesy of the Franklin Pierce Center. Meanwhile the leading national institution for tertiary education, the University of Botswana (UB) doesn’t offer any programmes on Intellectual Property.

Therefore the challenges of adminstration and enforcement of copyright in Botswana are colossal. There is only one Collective Management Organisation (CMO) which collects royalties and license fees for all the various copyright holders. This CMO is called the Copyright Society of Botswana and it leans quite heavily on the Copyright Office of Botswana for support.

The following are some of the lessons the Botswana Copyright Office could learn from Kenya as they grow and develop their capacity:

Continue reading