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.
In a recently reported ruling in the case of LRC Products Limited v Metro Pharmaceuticals Limited  eKLR, the High Court dismissed an application by the plaintiff for an injunction restraining the defendant from importing, packaging, supplying, selling or offering for sell, distributing or otherwise dealing with the ‘Durex” products. The plaintiff had also sought orders to enter into the Defendant’s premises and seize all products or packaged products bearing the Plaintiff’s trademark, or similar trademark and further, seize records of purchases and sales, invoices and any other documents which constitute or would constitute evidence necessary to substantiate its cause of action.
As a result of this ruling, a trade mark will not be infringed by the importation into or distribution, sale or offering for sale, in Kenya of goods to which the trade mark has been applied by or with the consent of the proprietor.
This blogger has recently come across the reported case of Harleys Limited v Ripples Pharmaceuticlas Limited & another  eKLR. Vitabiotics Limited, a UK-based drug manufacturing company had previously engaged Ripples Pharmaceutical Limited and Metro Pharmaceuticals Limited to import, distribute and sell their products in Kenya. Thereafter, Harleys Limited became Vitabiotics exclusive distributor in Kenya. Harleys then went to court and obtained temporary orders blocking Ripples and Metro from importing, packaging, selling as well as distributing products bearing a trademark similar or confusingly similar in get-up to the trademarks owned by Vitabiotics.
The court’s ruling was focused on two main issues namely; (1) Whether or not the Harleys had legal standing/locus standi to institute the proceedings? and (2) If so, was Harleys entitled to the orders it had sought in its application?
Recently, this blogger came across a media report stating that Diageo North America Inc, suing jointly with UDV (Kenya) Ltd, which is its subsidiary in Kenya, has claimed that Platinum Distillers Ltd has begun the manufacture and sale of an alcoholic drink in Kenya known as Momentum Ice with Guarana, which is directly infringing on its trademark, Smirnoff Ice Double Black with Guarana. Both alcoholic beverages are pictured above.
According to this media report, the US company claims that Platinum has caused Momentum Ice to be produced with an overall packaging that constitutes confusingly similar features to its Smirnoff Ice Double Black with Guarana, which is distributed in Kenya by UDV. In particular, the report has reproduced a portion of the suit papers filed by Diageo which reads: “This [packaging] has been done in a manner and style calculated to deceive members of the public that the offending product is associated with us.” As result, Diageo and UDV have reportedly asked the courts to stop Platinum from using its trademark by way of packaging and selling of Momentum Ice with Guarana, in order to prevent further confusion among consumers who think the two products are connected.