Through the Roof: Iron Sheet Firm Sues for Trade Mark, Industrial Design Infringement

Royal Mabati Factory Website Iron Sheet Box Profile 2018 Kenya Limited

 

In what could be a precedent-setting case for the roofing products market, a leading iron sheet manufacturer is claiming both trade mark and industrial design protection for two of its roofing brands against a smaller rival company. The recently reported ruling in Royal Mabati Factory Limited v Imarisha Mabati Limited [2018] eKLR was the courts’ first attempt to deal with industrial property protection for corrugated iron sheets widely used as roofing material known in Kiswahili as ‘mabati’. Although not clearly distinguishing between the aspects of industrial design and trade mark protection, the court was prepared to rule in favour of Royal and grant its application for a temporary injunction against Imarisha.

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Time to Rethink Kenya Copyright Board?

KECOBO MAN

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.

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High Court Strikes Down Appointment of Anti-Counterfeit Agency Board Chairman Twice in a Row

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This blogger has come across a recent High Court judgment in the case of Republic v Attorney General & 2 others Ex parte Tom Odoyo Oloo [2016] eKLR in which the appointment of the chairman of Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) was challenged for being unconstitutional.  In the earlier case of Republic v. Attorney General & 3 Others Ex-Parte Tom Odoyo Oloo [2015] eKLR discussed on this blog here, the High Court struck down the appointment of Polycarp Igathe as ACA Chairman and less than one week later on 24th December 2015, the Cabinet Secretary responsible for ACA appointed Igathe as ACA Chairman to take effect from 17th April 2015, the effective date that was the subject of the Court’s orders in the 2015 case. According to the applicant in the present case, this re-appointment of Igathe was both illegal and unconstitutional.

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High Court Declares Appointment of Anti-Counterfeit Agency Inspectors Unconstitutional

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“In my view fresh appointments to the positions of inspectors must be open to the public and such positions must be advertised. It therefore does not matter whether the interested parties were handpicked by the Board or Mr Igathe [Former Chairman of ACA Board of Directors]. The era of handpicking persons and appointing them as public officers was in my view buried with the retired Constitution and has no place in the current constitutional dispensation.” – Odunga J at para. 39.

In a recent judgment in the case of Republic v Anti-Counterfeit Agency Ex parte Moses Maina Maturu [2016] eKLR, the High Court quashed Gazette Notice No. 9451 published on 24th December, 2015 appointing several individuals (enjoined in the suit as interested parties) as inspectors of Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA). According to ACA, the present suit was a scheme to paralyze its operations instigated by persons who have been behind several court cases, which ACA has been forced to defend thereby directing its resources away from the fight against counterfeiting.

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Netflix in Kenya, Africa – A Fix for Copyright Piracy?

Netflix in Kenya website screenshot homepage

This week, Netflix, the popular American multinational subscription video on demand (SVoD) internet streaming media service provider announced that it’s service has gone live globally. Kenya is among 130 countries that can now access internet streaming TV from Netflix. In Kenya, Netflix is now available via their official website: https://www.netflix.com/ke/  which means that for one monthly price Kenyan consumers can sign up to enjoy Netflix original series as well as its huge catalog of licensed TV shows and movies simultaneously with the rest of the world. As of October 2015, Netflix had 69.17 million subscribers globally, including more than 43 million in the United States of America.

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Access to Medicines in the Developing World: No to Evergreening in Novartis Case and No to Patent Linkage in Patricia Asero Case

As part of the World IP Day 2013 activities in Kenya, CIPIT will host a special intellectual property (IP) debate organised by the Aids Law Project (ALP) between students drawn from the local universities. The topic of this debate is: how the Novartis and Patricia Asero court decisions affect public health in developing countries. Although this blogger will not be able to attend the debate in person, what follows are a few ruminations on this debate topic.

The Supreme Court of India judgment in the Novartis case and the High Court of Kenya judgment in the Patricia Asero case seem to have one common consequence: making pharmaceutical companies very unhappy. Both these cases have placed the spotlight on the generic drugs industry. In the developing world, where few people can afford original patented medicines, many opt for generic versions of the same drugs that are sold for as little as 1/10th of the price of the original product. Therefore, what generics companies do essentially is to replicate drugs that are no longer protected by patents. This leaves the pharmaceutical companies with two main issues to deal with: Firstly how do they “extend” patent protection for their well-known drugs? Secondly how do they ensure strict IP enforcement in respect to their patented drugs? The first issue is illustrated in the Novartis case and the second issue appears in the Patricia Asero case.

Read the rest of this article over at the CIPIT Law Blog here.

L’Oréal Acquires Nice & Lovely Trademark in Multi-Billion Shilling Deal

Media reports (here, here and here) indicate that the world’s largest multinational cosmetics company L’Oréal has acquired Kenya’s Interconsumer Products Ltd’s flagship Nice & Lovely brands, in a multi-million dollar acquisition reported this past week.

L’Oréal opened shop in Nairobi in late 2011 and has for the past 18 months been in talks with Interconsumer Products Ltd for a buyout deal. To facilitate the conclusion of the deal, Interconsumer Products Ltd transferred the beauty division to a new company dubbed Interworld Cosmetics, which has now been acquired by L’Oreal. The French based cosmetics giant has now renamed the new business Interbeauty Products.

This blogger salutes Interconsumer Products Managing Director Mr. Paul Kinuthia. We have all read the story of how Mr. Kinuthia grew his business from a modest sole proprietorship in the late 1990s to a major cosmetics manufacturer in East Africa. This success story of Interconsumer Products Ltd is even more significant and instructive when viewed from an intellectual property (IP) perspective.

The mark NICE and LOVELY was registered in favour of Interconsumer Products Ltd at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) in 2002 but had been in use by Interconsumer since 1999. From this date onwards, Interconsumer has been actively policing its intellectual property rights in the NICE AND LOVELY mark particularly as its products begun to gain prominence not just in Kenya but in neighbouring countries, particularly Uganda.

In 2004, Interconsumer moved to the Commercial Division of Uganda’s Commercial Court to seeking restrain Nice & Soft Investments Ltd., its servants and/or agents and/or distributors from manufacturing, selling or exposing for sale or in any way dealing in cosmetics using the names “Nice & Soft”. This case was reported as Interconsumer Products Ltd V Nice & Soft Investments Ltd (2003) Miscellaneous Application No. 256 Of 2004 (available here and here). In this case Interconsumer alleged, inter alia that the respondents without any form of authority were selling cosmetics goods in Uganda under the mark “Nice & Soft” and had attempted to register a trademark under the said names to the detriment of Interconsumer. Therefore, Interconsumer argued that it’s trademark was in danger of being wasted and irreparably damaged by virtue of such use by the respondent who is selling inferior goods similar to those of Interconsumer. On the question of whether there was trademark infringement, the court noted that the respondent’s application for registration was before the Registrar of Trademarks prior to the filing by Interconsumer of the suit which suit does not aver that it is a challenge to registration. On the question of whether there was passing off, the court found that the Interconsumer pleaded the ingredients of passing off, namely the acquired reputation. The actions taken by Interconsumer to protect its NICE AND LOVELY trademark in Uganda are instructive and must be borne in mind when considering the amount L’Oréal has just paid to acquire this well-known mark.

However before this acquisition deal, many will remember that in Interconsumer had previously locked horns with L’Oréal in both the Ugandan and Kenyan courts over the NICE AND LOVELY trademark. In the Ugandan case reported as L’Oreal and Another vs Interconsumer Products Ltd Application no. 13 of 2006 (available here), L’Oreal moved to the Commercial Division of the High Court to review the decision of the Registrar of Trademarks setting aside opposition proceedings and granting registration of two trademarks, SMOOTH & LOVELY and NICE and LOVELY applied for by Interconsumer.

In the Kenyan case, L’Oréal once more moved to the High Court to challenge the decision of the Registrar of Trademarks in rejecting its opposition of the registration of the mark NICE & LOVELY HERBAL OIL MOISTURIZER by Interconsumer. In a ruling delivered last year on 21st February, the High Court dismissed L’Oréal’s appeal against the decision of the Registrar rejecting L’Oreal’s opposition to the registration of the mark by Interconsumer. The court agreed with the Registrar on several important grounds including that the mark NICE & LOVELY was not similar to DARK AND LOVELY (owned by L’Oréal) and that there could be no confusion as defined under section 14 and 15 of the Trade Marks Act. The Court also agreed with the Registrar’s conclusion that L’Oreal had failed to show that its trademark was well known in Kenya. Furthermore, the Court agreed with the Registrar’s finding that the respondent had used the mark NICE and LOVELY since 1st March 1999 and the appellant had not tendered any evidence to show that it had objected to the use of the mark in the last five years. Therefore, the common law doctrine of honest concurrent use was applicable therefore both NICE & LOVELY and DARK AND LOVELY marks could co-exist in the Trademarks Register. A detailed synopsis of this unreported case is available over at the afroip blog here.

Viewed against the above backdrop, L’Oréal’s acquisition of NICE & LOVELY is an important lesson for trademark owners not only in Kenya but throughout the East African region. Interconsumer’s investment in registration and enforcement of its (IP) rights was a crucial factor in sealing this major buy-out deal.