In a recent media report here, the Commercial Court of Nyarugenge in Rwanda has ruled that it will not proceed with a case filed by Innscor International accusing two local companies Chicken Inn Limited and Pizza Inn Limited of trademark infringement in Rwanda. The basis of this ruling was reportedly that Innscor had not demonstrated to the court that it had “legal status according to the law governing registered entities in Rwanda”. Technicalities aside, it is clear that once Innscor produces its certificate of incorporation in court, this case would proceed to consider the merits of Innscor’s claim (as illustrated by the picture above), namely that registration of a name as a company name by entity A should not trump any rights in such a name acquired previously by entity B through trade mark law.
A recent judgment by the High Court in the case of Albert Gacheru Kiarie T/A Wamaitu Productions v James Maina Munene & 7 others  eKLR is likely to have profound ramifications for the enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights in Kenya. At the heart of this case is a catalogue of widely popular vernacular songs such as “Mariru (Mwendwa Wakwa Mariru)” which is featured in the video above by Gacheru and produced by the latter’s company, Wamaitu.
According to Gacheru, his music and those of other rights holders he was involved with through his Wamaitu label have all been the subject of piracy and copyright infringement for many years. From 2004, Gacheru was the complainant in a criminal copyright infringement case (Criminal Case No. PP 06 of 2004) and was later granted permission to privately prosecute the case but he was then barred from continuing to undertake the private prosecution for the reason that he intended to serve as a witness in the same case. Gacheru appealed this decision insisting that he should be allowed to act as private prosecutor and witness in his case. The present judgment settles this 12 year old dispute on this matter.
“I am acutely aware of the far reaching consequences of my conclusive finding that purely constitutional issues and questions have been borne out of a hitherto commercial relationship and hence the court’s jurisdiction rather than agreed mode of dispute resolution. I however do not for a moment view it that the framers of our Constitution intended the rights and obligations defined in our common law, in this regard, the right to freedom of contract, to be the only ones to continue to govern interpersonal relationships.” – Onguto, J at paragraph 101 of the ruling.
A recent well-reasoned ruling by the High Court in the case of Bia Tosha Distributors Limited v Kenya Breweries Limited & 3 others  eKLR tackled the complex question of horizontal application of the Constitution to private commercial disputes governed by contracts with private dispute resolution mechanisms. More interestingly, the court had to consider whether the amount of Kshs. 33,930,000/= paid by the Petitioner to acquire a ‘goodwill’ over certain distribution routes or areas of the Respondents’ products can be defined as ‘property’ held by the Petitioner and as such protected under Article 40 of the Constitution.
“We wish to underscore the importance of fostering creativity through respect and protection of intellectual property rights of others. A nation cannot be built on disregard for originality and promotion of copy cats.” – Excerpt from a press statement by Transcend Media Group.
This blogger has come across the recent case of Transcend Media Group Limited v. Saracen Media Limited & 2 Ors Civil Case No. 3644 of 2016 in which Senior Magistrate E.K Usui has granted temporary injunctive orders sought by Transcend, the applicant against Saracen and the two other respondents. The court granted Anton Piller orders allowing Transcend to enter the premises of the respondents to preserve, seize, collect and keep machines, data, documents and storage material relating to Transcend’s copyright work under the supervision of Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) officers. In addition, the respondents have been restrained by the court from any further infringement, alienation, distribution and storage of Transcend’s copyright work pending hearing of the suit.
According to a Business Daily report here, the genesis of this copyright dispute is a Sh208 million tender by Safaricom seeking to procure the services of an advertising agency to handle the mobile network operator’s youth segment brand communication which is now called BLAZE. Transcend submitted its strategy proposal and creative body of works to Safaricom but lost the bid to Saracen. Transcend alleges that Safaricom awarded the business to Saracen and a Company (Fieldstone Helms Limited) owned by former Transcend staff who were involved in Transcend’s bid including the team leader. As a result, Transcend claims that Fieldstone Helms is now “illegally implementing” Transcend’s intellectual property (IP).
In a recently reported ruling in the case of City Clock Limited v Country Clock Kenya Limited & another  eKLR, the plaintiff sought injunctive orders against the defendants barring them from conducting advertising business on the clocks units using the name “Country Clock”, which was similar to the registered trade mark “City Clock”, which it was contended, were confusingly and deceptively similar in set-up, get-up and appearance to the Plaintiff’s clock units.
According to the Plaintiff, the main issue in its application for interim orders was that the Defendants have been using a name that is so similar to that used by the Applicant for over thirty (30) years, which similarity in name, it averred, is phonetically similar to the pronunciation of the Applicant’s trademark of “City Clock”.
After 7 years in court, a judgment was recently delivered in the case of Nairobi Map Service Limited v Celtel Kenya Limited (Zain Kenya) & 2 others  eKLR in which Nairobi Map sought to have the defendants namely Celtel/Zain Kenya (now Airtel Kenya), Z.K Advertising Kenya and the Sound and Picture Works company held liable for copyright infringement of a copyrighted map known as ‘Kenya Administrative Map’ which was included in the ‘Zain Coverage’ advertisement televised in August 2009.
According to the court there were 3 issues to determine namely: (1) whether the Plaintiff has copyright in the map known as ‘Kenya Administrative Map’; (2) If issue No. 1 is in the affirmative, whether all or any of the Defendants have infringed the Plaintiff’s copyright in the said map; and (3) Whether the Plaintiff is entitled to damages as prayed, from the Defendants or any of them.
Previously we reported here that two content service providers and three individual copyright owners had filed a constitutional petition at the High Court challenging the content of the equitable remuneration right in section 30A of the Copyright Act, the application and implementation of section 30A by the collective management organisations (CMOs) and the manner of licensing and supervision of the CMOs by Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO).
Recently in the case of Petition No. 317 of 2015 Xpedia Management Limited & 4 Ors v. The Attorney General & 4 Ors 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 content service providers and the copyright owners that the contents and implementation of section 30A are unconstitutional.