Copyright Registration Cancelled for ‘Primary Science Charts’: Judgment in School Equipment Production Unit v. James Muhoro t/a Mamur Services

school equipment production unit sepu kenya

This blogger recently came across a judgment by the High Court in the case of School Equipment Production Unit v James Muhoro t/a Mamur Services [2015] eKLR. In this case, School Equipment Production Unit (SEPU) claimed that it commissioned people including Muhoro, to develop for it a primary science kit which included a catalogue entitled “Primary Science Charts” consisting of “Weather and the Sky, HIV/Aids and Drugs and drug abuse.” The said primary science kit was presented to Kenya Institute of Education (who awarded the same an approved status. The Plaintiff therefore claimed that it had acquired copyright in the artistic work comprised in the catalogue entitled “Primary Science Charts (1) Weather and the Sky (2) HIV/Aids and (3) Drugs and Drug Abuse”.

SEPU contends that Muhoro infringed upon its copyright in the said works by causing to be registered in his name a copyright work under certificate No.000063 of the artistic work similar to the said works. SEPU therefore prayed for various reliefs including an injunction to restrain Muhoro from further reproduction and publication of the said works, cancellation of the registration of copyright No. CR 000063, general and exemplary damages.

Muhoro denied SEPU’s claim and in his defence claimed that those who were empanelled in 2009 by SEPU, of which he was one of them, were tasked to only update the primary science kit and not to design and develop the primary science charts. That he, had already designed and developed the Primary Science Charts and had even sold them to the Plaintiff in 2008. Muhoro further claimed that SEPU purchased the said charts from Muhoro and he permitted SEPU to remove the name Mamur Services from the said Charts and replace the same with its own. He defended his registration as the copyright owner of the said works and counter claimed for damages against the Plaintiff for infringement.

The court found in favour of SEPU and stated as follows:

“I am of the view and I so hold that, the Defendant [Muhoro] ]was, as were other teachers, included in the panel that was updating the Science kit in 2009, after the charts were developed and formed part of the approved kit, the Defendant had a chance of making copies of the same when he was contracted to print and make copies for the Plaintiff [SEPU] through Apex Educational Consultants. He then decided to steal a match against the Plaintiff by registering the said charts as his copyright in September, 2010.
(…)
I have examined the charts appearing at pages 22 to 32 of DExh1. They are the ones bearing the name of Mamur Services. I have compared them with the charts appearing at pages 26 to 54 of PExh1. They bear the names of the Plaintiff. They are the same in every respect save for the names and address of the designers. Since I have made a finding that the Plaintiff is the owner of the copyright in those charts, by printing the charts in the name of Mamur Services, the Defendant had infringed in that copyright. As a copyright is not conferred by mere registration, the subsequent purported registration by the Defendant of the said works under Certificate No. CR 000063 did not defeat the Plaintiff’s claim to copyright on the said works. Accordingly, that Certificate of Registration of a copyright work is of no consequence and is liable to be cancelled.”

A copy of the judgment is available here.

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