“As more and more companies look to Africa for strategic growth, and as intellectual property (IP) becomes increasingly important to the continent’s economic agenda, trade mark activity in Kenya – the gateway to the East African market – has flourished.” – World Trademark Review 1000 – The World’s Leading Trademark Professionals.
In a previous blogpost titled “Fading Giants and Rising Stars: Opinion on Performance of Intellectual Property Law Firms in Kenya”, we considered some eleven Kenyan law firms known to have established IP practices, namely Kaplan & Stratton Advocates (K&S), Hamilton Harrison and Mathews Oraro Advocates (HHM Oraro), Iseme Kamau & Maema Advocates (IKM), Ndungu Njoroge & Kwach Advocates (NNK), Coulson Harney Advocates (CH), Daly & Figgis Advocates (D&F), Gichachi & Company Advocates (G&C), Simba & Simba Advocates (SS), J.K Muchae & Company Advocates (JKM), CFL Advocates (CFL) and Muriu Mungai & Company Advocates (MMC Africa). From the data presented, it was clear that the erstwhile dominance of K&S has receded with CH leading the way in trade mark prosecutions.
This week the 2015 World Trademark Review 1000 rankings were published online here. These WTR 1000 rankings confirm this blogger’s view to the effect that “heightened competition has raised standards even higher across the board.” Nine firms made it to this year’s WTR 1000 list ranked as follows: 1. CH (Gold); 2. IKM (Gold); 3. K&S (Gold); 4. CFL (Silver); 5. D&F (Silver); 6. HHM Oraro (Silver); 7. MMC Africa (Silver); 8. NN&K (Silver) and 9. S&S (Silver).
Among the three Gold Band firms in Kenya, CH’s review is the longest and most praiseworthy. The first two sentences alone of CH’s review contain a litany of superlatives like “unmatched”, “frontrunner” and “brightest” while CH’s Head of IP, John Syekei is described as “enormously popular throughout the region”. Syekei is once again ranked in the Gold Band of WTR 1000 Individuals behind IKM’s William Maema and K&S’s Peter Hime, who remains the top ranked IP professional in Kenya.
With its recent merger, HHM Oraro has become the largest firm in Kenya (17 Partners) and now has a whooping total of about ten (10) IP-savvy lawyers on its roster. This blogger expects HHM Oraro to attain the coveted Gold Band ranking if the merger is able to capitalise on its size and expertise to secure consistent big ticket commercial IP work. HHM Oraro’s swanky new website is available here.
It is impressive that CFL is ranked first among the Silver Band firms, which is truly a testament to the outstanding job being done by IP Partner Lorna Mbatia. Mbatia is credited with building “excellent relations with a raft of prominent US law firms, as well as top players in South Africa” which has made CFL “one of the fastest-growing trademark practices around.” According to WTR 1000 sources, Mbatia “has forged close ties with key personnel at different IP registries across East Africa; as a result, she is a great choice for clients with regional requirements.”
MMC Africa’s review stands out among all other ranked firms given its creative approach to IP practice. According to WTR 1000 sources, MMC has moved from being “reliant on instructions from foreign companies” to “fielding requests from an increased number of locals, thanks to its extensive non-billable work in educating domestic entities on the importance of trademark protection”. MMC’s IP Team is led by Nancy Karanu who is credited as an “effective motivator of her team” and “forward-thinking associate” Peter Kamero. Kudos to MMC’s Kamero who is the only Associate in the WTR 1000 Individuals rankings.
This blogger wonders whether D&F, a newcomer on the WTR 1000 list, will survive the fierce competition among IP law practices. In this regard, many will recall the exodus of four key partners from D&F to CH in late 2014, including Njau Mukuha who is cited by the WTR 1000 as the Partner who “oversees the IP practice” at D&F. As D&F regroups, the three-way contest between indigenous firms NNK, G&C and SS will continue for the top spot among the Silver Band law firms.