Proposed Amendments to Intellectual Property Laws in Kenya

statute-law-miscellaneous-amendments-bill-no-2-of-2016-submission-memoranda

On 11th November, 2016, pursuant to Special Issue of Kenya Gazette Supplement No.185 (National Assembly Bills No. 45) the Attorney General published the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 2) Bill 2016. It is recalled that this Bill is intended to “make minor amendments which do not merit the publication of separate Bills and consolidating them into one Bill”. The Bill proposes to amend several intellectual property (IP) laws including Industrial Property Act, 2001 (No. 3 of 2001), Copyright Act, 2001 (No. 12 of 2001) and Anti-Counterfeit Act, 2008 (No. 13 of 2008).

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Test Case on Liability for Online Copyright Infringement: Music Industry Players Sue ISPs, Telcos and Government

sauti sol sura yako

This blogger has recently come across the case of Bernsoft Interactive & 2 Ors v. Communications Authority of Kenya & 9 Ors Petition No. 600 of 2014, a recently filed constitutional petition seeking injunctive orders to compel internet service providers (ISPs) in Kenya to block websites engaged in piracy and declaratory orders that the State has failed in its constitutional and legal obligations to protect the intellectual property rights of Kenyans. The state organs that are targetted in this Petition including the telecommunications regulator, Communications Authority of Kenya; the copyright office, Kenya Copyright Board and the principal legal advisor to the Government, the Office of the Attorney General. A copy of the petition is available in .pdf here.

The major ISPs (in terms of the number of subscribers in Kenya) have all been enjoined in the suit including: Safaricom, Airtel, Jamii Telecom, Wananchi Group, Access Kenya, Liquid Telecom and Telkom Kenya.

The petitioners cite the infamous site: http://www.wapkid.com which allows users to illegally download sound recordings and audio-visual works online. The ISPs are accused of allowing its subscribers to use its internet networks to illegally acquire copyright works through sites such as wapkid. In this connection, it is alleged that the ISPs allow the transmission in digital form, these copyright protected music through their networks and into, and out of, the personal computers, phones and various gadgets that are used for online copyright piracy.

wapkid sauti sol

To illustrate its claims, the Petition submits into evidence the above screenshot of a Wapkid page linking to the location where one of the Petitioner’s members, Sauti Sol’s musical work known as “Sura Yako” is hosted. Through the “premium” or “free” options on the wapkid site, the user can download the unauthorized copy of Sauti Sol’s audiovisual work to his/her computer or phone or tablet for unlimited viewing or further distribution.

The matter came up for hearing before High Court Justice Lenaola earlier this month.

This blogger commends the petitioners for their efforts and will be closely following the developments in this case.

KEMRI Ordered to Pay Researchers 30 Million Shillings for Constitutional Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights

KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme KWTRP

In the recent case of Dr. Samson Gwer & 5 others v. Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) & 2 others Petition No. 21 of 2013, the Industrial Court at Nairobi found that KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP) had violated the constitutional rights to intellectual property of six Kenyan research doctors and ordered KEMRI to pay each of the doctors a sum of 5 million shillings as compensation. A copy of the court’s judgment is available here.

After an in-depth review of this case from an intellectual property (IP) perspective, this blogger concludes that this case sets an important precedent for the State’s obligations to protect the right to property under Article 40 of the Constitution of Kenya.

The researchers alleged that the respondents “routinely violated the Petitioners’ right under Article 40(1) of the Constitution by taking away the Petitioners’ right to intellectual property resulting in the Respondents, its servants, employees and students taking credit for the work and scientific innovation of the Petitioners by:

(i) (a) disregard syndrome; (b) Mathew Effect (Discovery credit inadvertently reassigned from the original discoverer for a better known researcher)

(ii) disapproval by the Respondent of the Petitioners and other local scientists innovations or work to apply for grants;

(iii) misappropriation of the work of local scientists to benefit expatriate scientists

(iv) frequent unfair administrative action

(v) Inability to veto adverse decisions by the scientific team leader

(vi) redeployment and chastisement through mail from the Director of KEMRI on the account of raising these grievances.

As a result the Petitioners submitted that the cumulative effect was to forever stifle the progress by Kenyan researchers and to impede their autonomy and dream of Kenyanising scientific innovations.

Therefore the petitioners sought the following reliefs, inter alia, a declaration that the Respondent’s conduct, acts and/or omissions are unlawful, illegal and/or unfair and the same violates Article 40 of the Constitution as well as an order that the Petitioners are entitled to compensation for the above alleged violation of the Constitution.

With regard to allegation (i) on the ‘disregard syndrome’, the petitioners submitted that the most rampant scientific misconduct by the Respondents against the Petitioners was plagiarism, a behaviour the latter termed as ‘citation amnesia’, ‘disregard syndrome’ and ‘bibliographic negligence’ on the part of the Respondents.

In this connection, the Petitioners alleged that the Respondents “arm-twisted the Petitioners to give up their intellectual property rights and cede their passwords to research and innovation” and that “the contracts of employment do not entitle KEMRI to the intellectual property of the Petitioners and the appropriation outlined is unlawful.”

The Respondents flatly denied these allegations arguing that there was not an iota of evidence before the court to substantiate the petitioners’ claims.

In its determination, the learned court noted that whereas KEMRI as an employer is a public institution, the funding under the KEMRI Wellcome Trust Research Programme emaned from external donors. These external donors attached specific terms and conditions to the grant and administration of the Wellcome Trust Research Programme which terms and conditions became subject of grievances by the Petitioners. However the Court found in favour of the Petitioners and stated thus at paragraph 82:

“The 1st Respondent as a state employer is bound by the Constitution to protect the right of the Petitioner and not allow a policy that appropriates their intellectual property as has been ably demonstrated by the Petitioners herein contrary to Article 40(1) of the Constitution.”

Therefore the court ordered that each of the Petitioners is entitled to compensation for the said constitutional violation in the sum of KES 5 Million within thirty days of the judgment date, including interest at Court rates from the judgment date to payment in full. Further the court ordered that the Petitioners are entitled to access all the outcomes of their scientific research and to the credit and benefit attached to the outcomes under Articles 35 and 40 of the Constitution. KEMRI was also ordered to pay the costs of the Petition.

Comments:

From the above, it is submitted that the petitioner’s case for scientific misconduct and denial of intellectual property (IP) rights by KEMRI raises a number of important issues. Furthermore, the learned court’s determination that the petitioner had ably made a case for infringement of the constitutional right to property under Article 40 is quite significant as it reinforces a dangerous precedent set by the Court of Appeal on constitutional enforcement of IP rights.

To begin, the petitioners’ case is problematic as it does not disclose which specific intellectual property rights have been infringed by KEMRI. This case is further complicated by the petitioners’ conflation of plagiarism and alleged IP infringement. As previously discussed by this blogger here and here, copyright infringement may also amount to plagiarism but plagiarism can never amount to copyright infringement. However the petitioners appear to have successfully misled the court to make a finding that KEMRI’s scientific misconduct of plagiarism amounts to infringement of the petitioners’ intellectual property rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

This leads us to consider the impact of the court’s IP-related findings in this case. The present judgment in the Gwer v KEMRI case appears to be in line with the recent Court of Appeal decision in the digital migration case where the majority of the appellate judges found that the alleged infringement of intellectual property rights could be the subject of a constitutional Petition. However as this blogger has argued here, the reasoning by the Court of Appeal on IP (and seemingly adopted in the Gwer case) was flawed.

Therefore on this issue of constitutional enforcement of IP rights, this blogger respectfully submits that the earlier decisions by the learned Majanja J. in the High Court cases of Sanitam Services (EA) Ltd v Tamia Ltd Petition No. 305 of 2012 and Royal Media Services Ltd & 2 others v Attorney General & 8 others [2013] appear to be more cogent and correct in law compared with the findings in the present judgment and that of Court of Appeal in the digital migration case.

As a parting shot, this blogger notes that one unintended consequence of this emerging jurisprudence of constitutional enforcement of IP rights particularly in the employment context is that ex-employees such as Samson Ngengi (See our analysis of Ngengi v. KRA here) have an added avenue to obtain damages and compensation from public sector ex-employers in IP-related disputes. This blogger is informed that arbitration proceedings in the Ngengi’s case are still on-going.

Intellectual Property in the Employment Context: South African High Court Dismisses “Please Call Me” Case Against Vodacom

Vodacom Tower, Johannesburg RSA - by finepixtrix

Recently, the much-awaited judgment in the case of Makate v Vodacom (Pty) Limited [2014] ZAGPJHC was delivered by the South African High Court in Johannesburg. The case revolves around the “Please Call Me” (PCM) service whereby Vodacom allowed its subscribers to send FREE messages to anyone on all South African networks, asking them to call you. The idea behind this nifty service come from a former Vodacom trainee accountant Nkosana Makate who went to court seeking compensation from the telecommunications giant for the idea.

The thrust of Makate’s case was to enforce against Vodacom an oral agreement in terms of which the Vodacom (which was ostensibly represented by Geissler, as Makate claims) would take and test the idea and if it was successful, pay Makate an amount to be negotiated between by both parties, but which represented a share of the revenue generated by the product that was to be developed based on the idea.
The court, in its judgment, was prepared to accept an agreement with Geissler on the terms alleged by Makate had been concluded. However, the court ultimately held that Vodacom was not bound by the agreement entered into by Geissler since Makate had not shown that Vodacom made any representations as to Geissler’s authority to represent Vodacom in conclude the agreement or, even if it had, that the representations were such that Makate should reasonably have acted upon them. The court also found that Makate’s claim was time barred i.e. the debt claimed by Makate had prescribed in terms of the South African Prescription Act. This blogpost considers several intellectual property (IP) issues related to this case and possible lessons for Kenyans who come up with creative and innovative ideas within the course of employment.

Read the full article here.

Why Private Copying Law and Practice in Kenya is Unconstitutional

50 bob movies by wamathai dot com

Private copying can be defined as the act of making any copy for non-commercial purposes by a natural person for his/her own use. Kenya’s Copyright Act defines it as the making of a single copy for the personal and private use of the person making the copy. Although the right of reproduction under copyright law is exclusive, Kenya is among many jurisdictions worldwide that limit the application of the reproduction right to activities that can be qualified as private copying, the reasoning being that it is practically impossible to grant permission to large numbers of individuals, or to monitor the use consequently made of it. It follows that private copying is allowed under the condition that a fair compensation is paid to the authors and other rights holders for loss of revenues or harm caused to the rights holder whose work had been copied. Private copying levy (or the audio blank tape levy as it known in Kenya) is currently the only efficient mechanism which allows creators to be compensated for widespread copying of their works for private/domestic use. It therefore follows that the blank tape levy would be applicable to blank CDs, tapes, cassettes, DVDs, VCDs, USB Disks, MiniDiscs, Memory Cards, Mobile Phones among others. It is yet to be operationalised in Kenya despite being provided for under section 28(3),(4),(5) and (6) of the Copyright Act.

In December 2013, this blogger discussed here that one of the proposed amendments to the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2013 related to the provisions of audio blank tape levying provided under Section 28(5) of the Copyright Act. The effect of this proposed amendment was that the blank tape levy be collected by KECOBO and then distributed to the registered CMO representing the owners of sound recordings, currently known as the Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP). However, this blogger argues that this section 28 (in both its current and proposed form) is unconstitutional and ought to be fundamentally amended so as to address the economic rights of all rights holders.

The WIPO International Survey on Private Copying Law and Practice 2012 explains that where private copying remunerations are gathered by collective management organisations (CMOs), these societies are appointed by the government or by rights holders. According to the Survey, these CMOs must be representative of each variety of rights holders namely the authors, performing artists and producers. In some jurisdictions, a distinct CMO exists dealing solely with private copying levy and the board of such a CMO is comprised of the various rights holders’ representatives.

From all the 30 countries selected for the Survey, it is clear that there are two main categories of rights holders who benefit from the royalties collected for private copying: copyright holders and the related rights holders. The copyright holders appear to take the lion’s share of the collections with countries like Switzerland and Canada recording an authors’ share of 58%. All in all, the share for copyright holders appears never to be less than 30%.

Meanwhile, back in Kenya, the related rights CMO representing sound producers (KAMP) has recently published a public notice on it’s official website which reads in part:-

“The Kenya Association of Music Producers and Performers Rights Society of Kenya Stakeholders Meeting on Blank Media Levy concluded by setting an unopposed tariff of 6% of import price at the point of sale on the aforementioned equipment. KAMP and PRISK by virtue of Sections 28 (5) and 30 (8) will commence collections May of 2014.”

According to section 28(4) of the Act, the royalty payable for private copying can only be set in one of two ways: through agreement with stakeholders or by the (non-existent) competent authority. The question which therefore must be asked is which one of the two ways was used and what was the rationale behind the percentage figure of 6% purportedly agreed upon pursuant to the Act.

Assuming that the conditions of section 28(4) of the Act have been met, it would follow that the audio blank tape levy would only be applicable to KAMP and not PRiSK. This is because the section refers only to audio recording equipment and audio blank tape and not video. In addition, according to the WIPO Survey, the only jurisdiction with a tariff of 6% (of the import price) is Lithuania and this tariff covers both copyright and related rights holders, as illustrated in the table above.

However there is a fundamental question which remains unanswered, namely: is the current private copying levy provision under section 28 constitutional? The blogger argues that the answer must be no. In all the countries studied in the WIPO Survey above, copyright holders were allocated a substantial share of collections from the respective private copying levies. However, the Kenyan Act only refers to owners of sound recording. It is therefore possible to argue that section 28(3),(4),(5) and (6) are unconstitutional for two cardinal reasons, namely the discrimination of rights holders contrary to Article 27 of the Constitution and the deprivation of property contrary to Article 40 of the Constitution.

A Kenyan Perspective of South Africa’s Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property

South_africa_parliament1

As many IP enthusiasts may have heard, South Africa has recently published a Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property (IP) (hereafter the Policy). Within the Kenyan context, this blogger has previously questioned the need for a national IP policy particularly in light of the recognition given to IP in the Constitution. However, for the purposes of this post, the policy provides a good basis for a comparative analysis of the state of IP in both South Africa and Kenya as well as possible recommendations to strengthen IP laws.

In the area of patents, Kenya’s IP office undertakes both formal and substantive examinations of patent applications whereas in South Africa, the Policy recommends the establishment of a substantive of a substantive search and examination of patents to address issue of “weak” vs “strong” patents. The policy’s recommendation to amend South African patent law to include pre-and post-opposition would also be instructive to Kenya.

Read the rest of this article here.

QOTD: Do You Own the Rights to Artistic Works Purchased at the Maasai Market?

 

maasai-market-by-bulinya

The “Maasai market” (not represented here) is an open-air market where shoppers can find curios, paintings, drawings, clothes and fabrics with Kenyan prints, jewellery and wood-carvings, hand-made by local artisans. The venue for the Maasai Market rotates between different shopping centres and other locations within Nairobi. For tourists and locals alike, the prices at Maasai Market are very negotiable subject to one’s bargaining prowess and ability to haggle down to the last cent. No receipts are issued for purchases made at the Maasai Market nor should a purchaser expect any warranties or guarantees on items sold at the Maasai Market.

This leads us to our question of the day (QOTD) which is:

If someone buys a painting from an art gallery the Maasai market, do they simultaneously buy the copyright and all rights under that copyright? Can the artist subsequently make copies or postcards of the painting that he/she sold? Can the buyer make postcards of the painting and sell them?

From the explanations above, it is clear that all works sold at Maasai market are subject to copyright protection mainly under the category of artistic works. Further, it must be assumed that these artistic works are sold either by the authors themselves, authorised agents or representatives of the authors.

One possible answer to the QOTD would be in the affirmative on condition that the purchaser waits fifty years after the end of the year in which the author of the artistic work dies. In the event that the identity of the author is unknown (which may be the case with Maasai market works), the purchaser would have to wait 50 years from the end of the year in which the artistic work was first created/published.

However, this blogger submits that there is a better answer to the QOTD. In the context of a Maasai market purchase, it appears that that there is no clear assignment of copyright and exclusive license to carry out any of acts controlled by copyright, including reproduction, adaptation and making of derivative works i.e. post cards. This is because section 33(3) of the Copyright Act provides that such assignment of copyright and exclusive license must be in writing signed by or on behalf of the assignor or licensor of the Maasai market work, as the case may be.

Nonetheless, this blogger argues that the purchaser of a Maasai market work enjoys a non-exclusive license to do any act the doing of which is controlled by copyright. According to section 33(4) of the Act, this non-exclusive license need not be in writing and may be oral or inferred from conduct. The Act however provides that such non-exclusive license may be revocable at any time unless granted by contract.

Therefore, for any IP lawyer, the solution to the uncertainty in ownership of rights to Maasai market works may be resolved by simply having something in writing along the lines of:

“I,……the Author hereby irrevocably assigns, conveys and otherwise transfers to…… the Assignee, and its respective successors, licensees, and assigns, worldwide, all right, title and interest in and to the works, and all proprietary rights therein, including, without limitation, all copyrights, trademarks, patents, design rights, trade secret rights, economic rights, and all contract and licensing rights, and all claims and causes of action with respect to any of the foregoing, whether now known, or hereafter to become known.”

This may be food for thought next time you’re strolling past the Maasai market and something catches your eye.