For Your Own Protection: Why Proposed Anti-Counterfeit Act Amendments Make Sense

Nairobi-Fashion-Hub-Disconnect-Movie_1

The word ‘Disconnect’ (see caption image above) may be the title of the latest Kenyan blockbuster film but it also embodies the current raging debate over proposed changes to The Anti-Counterfeit Act No. 13 of 2008. In our previous blogposts here and here, we have largely dwelt on the demerits of the proposals contained in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2018, which if enacted, would radically affect intellectual property (IP) enforcement in Kenya, principally undertaken by Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA).

Meanwhile, some readers of this blog, who happen to be IP practitioners specialising in brand enforcement and anti-counterfeiting matters, have rightly pointed out that it is equally important to consider the merits of and benefits expected from the proposed changes to the Act if and when the omnibus Bill is enacted. In particular, this blogpost will focus on the proposals relating to offences and the ‘recordation’ requirements.

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Anti-Counterfeit Agency Defends Flawed Proposals on Mandatory Intellectual Property Rights ‘Recordation’

ACA Kenya Tweet

Yesterday the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) posted this response in the comments section of our blogpost last week titled: ‘Controversial 2018 Proposed Amendments to The Anti-Counterfeit Act’. In the face of widespread criticism from intellectual property (IP) experts, ACA has defended its proposed amendments to the Anti-Counterfeit Act which, if enacted, would effectively introduce a system for mandatory ‘recordation’ of trade marks, copyright and plant breeders rights to be administered by ACA.

Prior to writing that blogpost, this blogger had reached out to ACA for an official comment asking the following question: ‘What is your response to public concerns about the implications of the draft amendments to your Act on 1) the mandates of Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) and Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO); 2) ease of doing business in Kenya generally; 3) international best practice?’ All the various responses from ACA will be considered in this blogpost.

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Controversial 2018 Proposed Amendments to The Anti-Counterfeit Act

2018 Amendments to Anti-Counterfeit Act Kenya ACA Bill

The Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2018 seeks to make various, wide-ranging amendments to existing intellectual property (IP) law-related statutes. The Bill contains proposed amendments to the following pieces of legislation: The Industrial Property Act, 2001 (No. 3 of 2001), The Copyright Act, 2001 (No. 12 of 2001), The Anti-Counterfeit Act, 2008 (No. 13 of 2008) and The Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions Act, 2016 (No. 33 of 2016). The Memorandum of Objects and Reasons for the Bill is signed by Hon. Aden Duale, Leader of Majority in the National Assembly and it is dated 29 March 2018. This blogpost will focus on the proposed changes to The Anti-Counterfeit Act.

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UPOV 1991 Enters into Force in Kenya: Farmers’ vs Plant Breeders’ Rights

Stephen Ndungu Karau Ambassador and Permanent Representative accession 1991 UPOV Convention Kenya Francis Gurry Director-General World Intellectual Property United Nations Geneva Switzerland 2016

H.E. Amb. Dr. Stephen Ndungu Karau, Ambassador and Permanent Representative deposits the instruments of accession to the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention on behalf of the Republic of Kenya received by Dr. Francis Gurry Director-General World Intellectual Property Organization – April 11 2016 Geneva, Switzerland.

On May 11th 2016, the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV Convention) of December 2, 1961, as revised on March 19, 1991 entered into force in Kenya. As readers know, Kenya was the first country in Africa to join Union internationale pour la protection des obtentions végétales (UPOV) when it became a member on May 13th 1999 and subsequently domesticated the 1961 Act of the UPOV Convention in the Kenya Seed and Plant Varieties Act Cap 326.

Previously this blogger highlighted the recently adopted ARIPO Arusha Protocol and the draft SADC Protocol which are both modelled around UPOV 1991 standards. In this connection, the entering into force of UPOV 1991 in Kenya is a significant development for both plant breeders’ rights as well as farmers’ rights.

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Proposed Amendments to Seeds and Plants Varieties Act

KEPHIS Seeds and Plant Varieties Amendment Act Bill 2015

Article 11 of the Constitution of Kenya recognises culture as the foundation of the nation and as the cumulative civilization of the Kenyan people and nation and includes science and indigenous technologies and intellectual property (IP) rights of the people of Kenya within the scope of elements of culture that are recognised. The Constitution goes further and states in Article 11(3) (b) as follows:

“Parliament shall enact legislation to recognise and protect the ownership of indigenous seeds and plant varieties, their genetic and diverse characteristics and their use by the communities of Kenya”

It is this constitutional imperative that has resulted in the recently proposed amendments to the Seeds and Plant Varieties Act (Chapter 326 Laws of Kenya). A copy of the Seeds and Plant Varieties Amendment Bill, 2015 is available here.

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Jurisdiction is Everything: Time to Merge Tribunals for Copyright, Industrial Property, Seed and Plant Varieties

tribunal judiciary kenya cms-image-000005230

As readers may know, a government taskforce had earlier recommended the merger of the three intellectual property (IP) offices dealing with copyright, industrial property and anti-counterfeit matters. The implementation of these recommendations appears to have stalled with no progress made to-date. In addition to the IP offices, there is also the matter of the various IP dispute resolution bodies created under the various IP laws: the Industrial  Property  Act establishes the Industrial  Property  Tribunal, the Copyright Act establishes the Competent Authority (akin to a Copyright Tribunal), the Anti-Counterfeit Act  establishes the Anti-Counterfeit Agency and the Seeds and Plant Varieties Act establishes the Seeds and Plant Tribunal.

Recently, the Judiciary Working Committee on Transition and Restructuring of Tribunals developed a Draft Tribunal Bill 2015 to help domicile all tribunals under the Judiciary. This is an important step that could benefit IP owners and users in the quick and expert settlement of various IP-related disputes.

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ARIPO Adopts Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants

Ghana signs Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants 2015 ARIPO

The ARIPO Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants has been adopted by the Diplomatic Conference that was held in Arusha, the United Republic of Tanzania on July 6-7, 2015. Hence the name of the adopted Protocol is: Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. A copy of the Arusha Protocol is available here.

According to ARIPO, the Arusha Protocol seeks to provide Member States with a regional plant variety protection system that recognizes the need to provide growers and farmers with improved varieties of plants in order to ensure sustainable Agricultural production. Eighteen Member States of the Organization were represented at the Diplomatic Conference namely; Botswana, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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