In 2008, Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) was birthed as Kenya’s TRIPS-plus experiment to spearhead intellectual property (IP) rights enforcement by coordinating efforts among various state agencies. In our humble opinion, ACA deserves no score higher than 3/10 for its performance in fulfilling its overall statutory mandate in Kenya.
It was envisioned that ACA would be a shining example of an inter-agency approach to IP rights enforcement with private sector coordination. Ten years later, it is safe to say that ACA has failed to live up to its potential. The reason? Two words: Institutional Corruption.
Previously, this blogger reported here that the High Court had suspended the coming into force of the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 made by the Cabinet Secretary for Health scheduled to take effect on 1st June 2015. Recently in the case of British American Tobacco Kenya Ltd v Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Health & 4 others  eKLR, Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi (known to many readers for her landmark decision on anti-counterfeit law and access to medicines here) delivered a judgment at the High Court dismissing claims by ‘Big Tobacco’ that their constitutional rights including intellectual property (IP) rights are being violated by the new Tobacco Regulations.
According to media reports here, Finserve Africa Limited, a subsidiary of the multi-billion shilling Equity Group Holdings Ltd has been threatened with court action by Equitel Insurance Agency Ltd over the use of the name “Equitel” in connection with its telecommunication network operated using the now controversial ‘thin SIM’ technology. It is reported that Equitel has issued Equity with a cease and desist notice in which the former terms as unlawful the use of its trade mark which includes the name “Equitel” by Equity. Therefore Equitel has reportedly demanded that Equity desist from using the trade mark, including withdrawal of all publicity and advertising materials that contain this word.
In reply to Equitel’s claims, it is reported that Equity’s counsel stated in a letter as follows:-
“Our client is the proprietor of Equity Insurance Agency registered as such in 2007, to provide insurance services to its customers. Therefore, registration of Equitel Insurance Agency was targeted to misrepresent to the public that it was offering our client’s insurance services (….) The mere fact that your client may have been the first to register the trade name does not override the common law protection of the name, goodwill and reputation amassed by our client over the years”
In this connection, it is reported that Equity accused Equitel of using insider knowledge to set up its operations, given that it was an account holder at the bank and had first-hand experience of the services Equity Insurance was offering and, therefore, sought association in the registration of its own business name.
This blogger will be keenly following this dispute in the event the matter is not settled amicably and ends up before the courts for determination.