Anti-counterfeit agency steps in ‘Zero B’ trade mark row

Two different news reports on the ‘Zero B’ trade mark were reported on the 30th and 31st of December 2011.

In the Star piece “Nakumatt caught in trademark row” it is reported that Nakumatt Holdings, the largest retail store chain in East and Central Africa, has been caught in trademark row between a local company and an Indian one.

“In Kenya, the ‘Zero B’ trademark is owned Wiskam Agencies and is used in distribution of water purifying apparatus.The Indian company using the same name is in the business of water treatment and solutions too.”

In the Standard article “Fight against counterfeits gains momentum”, the focus was on Anti-Counterfeit Agency raid at one of Nakumatt’s shopping complex and an order issued to the management to stop the use or sale of any product with the “Zero B” trademark.

The Standard reports:

“Confidential documents in our possession show that “Zero B” is owned by Wilson Muriithi Kariuki, the owner of Wiskam Agencies.”

The Standard further quotes Kariuki as saying:

“Since the incorporation of this business, I have been engaging in the distribution of water purifying apparatus in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kiambu, Machakos, Kakamega and Garissa…
Pursuant to the success of my business, I applied to the Registrar of Trademarks for the registration and protection of my trademark—Zero B — which simply means Zero Bacteria.”

IPKenya wonders who the Indian company Ion Exchange (India) Ltd. had duly licensed and authorised to distribute its water purifying products, in addition to enforcing and protecting its ‘Zero B’ trade mark. Was it Wiskam Agencies or Nakumatt Holdings? Indeed the Ion Exchange’s website clearly lists Kenya as one of the countries where it has overseas offices.

After reading both news reports, a rebuttable assumption is that the ACA would not have carried out the raid on Nakumatt’s shopping centre if Wiskam had not presented credible enough evidence of a proprietary claim to the ‘Zero B’ trademark.