In Kenya’s cut-throat hair business, three competitors (the purveyors of hair extensions branded ‘Darling’, ‘Angels Hair’ and ‘Sistar’ respectively) have distinguished themselves through aggressive marketing and strategic litigation over their brands. In a previous blogpost here, we highlighted an interesting High Court case where the Sistar hair maker filed a trade mark infringement suit against both its rivals, Style Industries (of the ‘Darling’ fame) and Sana Industries, known for ‘Angels Hair’.
In this latest installment, we focus on the recently reported High Court ruling in Style Industries Limited v Sana Industries Co. Limited  eKLR in which the Plaintiff (Style) was partially successful in its application for both injunctive relief and Anton Piller orders against the Defendant (Sana) for infringement of its ‘VIP COLLECTION’ trade mark.
Since 2014, we have chronicled on this blog here, here and here an interesting trade mark dispute in Kenya between local company Sony Holdings and Japanese electronics maker Sony Corporation. This blogger is reliably informed that an appeal has already been filed in the Court of Appeal against last month’s decision of the High Court in the reported case of Sony Corporation v Sony Holding Limited  eKLR. In order to discern the likely grounds of appeal, it is important to consider this recent judgment made by the High Court.
Presently the Copyright Register (pictured above) shows that the same audiovisual work called “MY SKOOL TV SHOW” has two separate owners who registered it almost a year apart. In a recent High Court judgment in the case of Republic v Executive Director, Kenya Copyright Board & another Ex-Parte Sugarcane Communications Ltd  eKLR, the court quashed a decision by Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) to cancel the copyright registration of “MY SKOOL TV SHOW” by the ex parte Applicant (Sugarcane Communications Limited). This judgment is perhaps a wake-up call for KECOBO which, unlike the Registrar of Trade Marks at Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), is not accustomed to having its decisions regarding registration of intellectual property (IP) rights challenged by courts of law.
Question: What do the proposed amendments to the Copyright Act in 2017 and 2018 both have in common? Here’s a hint, it has to do with Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO). In 2017, the Copyright Amendment Bill proposed changes to the functions of the Board, composition of the Board and qualifications of the Executive Director whereas the recently tabled 2018 Bill proposes specific changes to KECOBO Board Membership. Arising from these two sets of proposals less than a year apart, there appears to be a growing call for the repeal or overhaul of the Copyright Act with specific concerns being raised about KECOBO’s Board structure, functions and role within the copyright and related rights system.
In an earlier post here, this blogger reported that Kenya finally enacted a new and comprehensive company law legislation. The Companies Act 2015 contains an express provision on prohibited names which states that the Registrar of Companies has the discretion not to register a company if the name applied for reservation is offensive or undesirable.
The Act states that the criteria to be used by the Registrar to determine whether a particular name is offensive or undesirable shall be prescribed by the regulations. This blogger is now pleased to report that the regulations in question have been published in the Kenya Gazette. From an intellectual property (IP) perspective, it is notable that the regulations contain a provision intended to provide greater certainty in situations where a company is registered using a name that is identical to a registered trade mark belonging to a third party.
The most recent edition of Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) newsletter (cover pictured above) focuses on photography and image rights. A copy of the full Issue 18 is available here.
In the lead article starting on page 4 by KECOBO Executive Director, a compelling case is made in favour of specific legal protection of image rights, particularly in the case of celebrities. The article uses the oft-cited case of Dennis Oliech v. EABL (previously discussed here) to illustrate the limitations of existing intellectual property (IP) regimes in cases of commercial appropriation of one’s personality and/or image.
The article reads in part as follows:
“The use of images and personality rights is gaining currency and there is need to ensure that the same is well regulated and third parties do not take undue advantage of the commercialisation of the same. Guernsey provides a good example and maybe we should follow suit.”
This view from the Copyright Office begs the question: will Kenya be better off with a specific law on image rights like Guernsey? This blogger argues that the answer must be “No”.
Earlier this year, we reported here this ruling: In the Matter of Trade Mark No. KE/T/2010/67586 “KENYA BOYS CHOIR” (WORDS) in Classes 16 and 41 in the Name of Joseph Muyale Inzai and Expungement Proceedings Thereto by Kenyan Boys Choir by the Assistant Registrar of Trade Marks at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI).
In this case, one Joseph Muyale Inzai filed an application to register his trade mark “KENYA BOYS CHOIR” (WORDS) before the Registrar of Trade Marks in classes 16 and 41 of the Nice Classification. The mark was approved, published and thereafter entered in the Register of Trade Marks in 2010.
In the same year, Members of a choir known as Kenyan Boys Choir obtained registration of their business names “THE KENYAN BOYS CHOIR” and “THE BOYS CHOIR OF KENYA” under the Registration of Business Names Act. These Members of the Kenyan Boys Choir filed an application for expungement of Inzai’s mark claiming that they were aggrieved by the entry of the mark for various reasons including that they were the true owners of the mark: “KENYAN BOYS CHOIR” which was virtually identical to the mark in question: “KENYA BOYS CHOIR”. The Registrar ruled in favour of the Choir members in addition to an award of costs. The Registrar found that Inzai had no valid and legal claim to the mark for the reason that his ownership of the mark was not sufficiently substantiated as required by law.