It is clear that the handful of Kenyan intellectual property (IP) law firms and lawyers listed in the Chambers and Partners Global 2013 Rankings are beyond the reach of most low to middle class creators and inventors. Therefore there is a growing gap for quality and professional IP services that are tailor-made and affordable. This blogger argues that this gap is gradually being filled by a number of IP services boutiques and consultancy firms, all based in the capital city, Nairobi.
To this blogger’s knowledge, there are three main IP consulting firms in Kenya, namely (from oldest to youngest) Innovative Lawyering (IL), June Gachui IP (JGIP) and Random Forks IP (RFIP) Group. Each of these IP entities is run by experienced IP professionals with unique areas of training and expertise. Each of the founder Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of these IP entities will be mentioned and discussed briefly however the real goal of this post is to review the websites and other communications of these entities.
IL’s founder and CEO is Ben Sihanya, a law professor and consultant, who holds post graduate degrees from Warwick and Stanford Law Schools. From IL’s website here, it is clear that IL’s consultancy strengths are centred around Sihanya’s research interests namely “Intellectual Property, Constitutionalism, Education Law and ICT Law for Sustainable Development”.
JGIP’s founder and Lead is June Gachui, who holds law degrees from London School of Economics and George Washington University. She is a Member of the Kenyan Bar and is currently the General Manager of the collective management organization for sound recording owners known as Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP). Aside from her professional qualifications which includes fluency in both English and French, June is also an acclaimed entertainer throughout Kenya known for her singing and acting both on stage and on screen. It is therefore not a surprise that June’s IP services boutique, JGIP mainly focuses on Media, Entertainment and IP law.
RFIP is a new IP consultancy firm in Kenya. Its founder and CEO is Fredrick Otswong’o, a former patent examiner at Kenya Institute of Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) which is the national patent office. A scientist by training, Fred holds bachelors and masters degrees in Biology and Chemistry from New Delhi, India. Given his experience in the fields of industrial property, Fred is highly sought after in the fields of patent, trademark and industrial designs.
With that brief overview in mind, this blogger submits that all three IP entities need to seriously re-think and re-design their websites and other online portals. Ideally, these entities should have websites that outmatch IP law firm websites, the latter being bound by the conservative and old-fashioned nature of the legal profession. However, all three IP entities’ websites do not appear to be an adequate reflection of the amazing IP minds behind the entities.
This blogger has perused each of the websites and has generally found several key areas that ought to be addressed. First and foremost, the content on the sites does not appear to be regularly updated. Such content includes articles, photographs, information about services (and fees), events, publications, personnel, news and events relating to IP in Kenya and elsewhere.
A related content issue is that none of the sites appears to provide pertinent free content to users seeking general information about IP. Secondly there is important content that appears to be missing from all sites such as information about fees, precise nature and scope of services offered, among others.
Thirdly, the sites do not appear to be sufficiently interactive and user-oriented. This third aspect extends to the IP entities’ use of social media sites like YouTube, Blogs, Facebook and Twitter to generate online conversations and interactions on a variety of content made available online.
To sum up, this blogger argues that all private IP consulting services must invest heavily on adding a personal touch to their websites and other online portals. Their online presence can be either be a curse or a blessing depending on how content is arranged, presented and managed to create an overall image of the respective IP entities. Users expect the IP entities to take time and make a conscious effort to make their online sites as interactive, user-friendly, catchy and informative as possible. Therefore IP boutiques in Kenya must do a much better job of making their online sites as dynamic, resourceful and unique as possible not only to attract clients but also to serve the IP industry as a whole.