2018 Proposed Amendments to The Industrial Property Act

2018 Amendments to Industrial Property Act Kenya KIPI

The Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2018 seeks to make various, wide-ranging amendments to the existing intellectual property (IP) law-related statutes. The Bill contains proposed amendments to the following pieces of legislation: The Industrial Property Act, 2001 (No. 3 of 2001), The Copyright Act, 2001 (No. 12 of 2001), The Anti-Counterfeit Act, 2008 (No. 13 of 2008) and The Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions Act, 2016 (No. 33 of 2016). The Memorandum of Objects and Reasons for the Bill is signed by Hon. Aden Duale, Leader of Majority in the National Assembly and it is dated 29 March 2018. This blogpost will focus on the proposed changes to The Industrial Property Act (IPA).

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High Court Orders Stay of Tribunal’s Invalidation of Sanitam Sanitary Bin ARIPO Patent No. 773

Sanitary waste disposal bin. US 2593455 A. Images. Patent Drawing

In the recent case of Sanitam Services (E A) Ltd v Rentokil (K) Ltd & another (K) Ltd [2014] eKLR, the High Court has issued a stay order against the ruling of the Industrial Property Tribunal (IPT) delivered on 21st January 2014 which invalidated with costs on the higher-scale Sanitam’s Patent Number AP 773 registered with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) on 15th October 1999.

H.P.G Waweru, J ruled that Sanitam was entitled to the stay pending hearing and determination of its appeal in accordance with section 115 (1) of the Industrial Property Act, 2001 (IPA) which provides –

“(1) Any party to the proceedings before the Tribunal may appeal in accordance with the rules made under this Part from any order or decision of the Tribunal to the High Court..”

In making his ruling, the learned judge examined the effect of invalidation of Sanitam’s patent as provided in Section 104 of the IPA Act, which reads:

“104. Effect of revocation or invalidation

1)Any revoked or invalidated patent, utility model or industrial design or claim or part of a claim of a registered industrial design shall be regarded as null and void from the date of the grant of the patent or certificate of registration of the utility model or the industrial design.

2)As soon as the decision of the Tribunal is no longer subject to appeal, the Chairman of the Tribunal shall inform the Managing Director who shall register and publish it as soon as possible in the Kenya Gazette or in the Industrial Property Journal.”

The court found that the implied effect of s104(2) was that an appeal to the High Court would act as a stay of registration and publication of the decision of the Tribunal in the Kenya Gazette or the Industrial Property Journal. Therefore all Sanitam needed to do was to inform the Chairman of the Tribunal that it had appealed against its order of 21st January 2014 and provide evidence of such appeal.

The court stated as follows:

“Upon a closer look at that wording of section 104(2), there cannot be any doubt that the intention of the legislature was that an appeal once duly lodged, and as long as it remains undisposed of, shall operate as a stay of the decision of the Tribunal, which decision may not be registered or published in the Kenya Gazette or the Industrial Property Journal pending disposal of the appeal.”

However the court allowed Sanitam’s application for a stay as it was necessitated by the fact that the wording of section 104(2) was not express enough and therefore Sanitam made the application ex abundante cautela i.e. out of abundance of caution.

Therefore the focus now shifts to the High Court who will review the decision of the IPT in Nairobi IPT Case No. 5 of 1999. In this matter, Rentokil Initial (K) Limited and Kentainers (K) Limited (the requesters) applied for revocation of the sanitary bin patent by Sanitam (the respondent) on two main grounds:-

1. The subject matter of the invention lacked novelty as it was anticipated by prior art and available for public use. In this regard, the requesters argued that the patent was a mere adaptaion or replica of products which were at the time of grant already in the market in Kenya and elsewhere in the world for a considerable number of years.

2. The subject matter of the invention was obvious and lacked an inventive step.

On its part, the respondent opposed the requesters’ application on the following grounds, as summarised by the IPT:

1. That ARIPO whose mandate extends to Kenya must have considered competing applications or oppositions before registration of the patent in issue.

2. That in spite of the requesters having been notified of the impending application before ARIPO, they did not take any action in opposition thereto and therefore should be stopped from taking the present action.

3. There are no valid grounds in law or in fact to support the present application for revocation.

According to the IPT, several issues arose for determination:

“i) What are the powers of the Tribunal in an application for revocation or infringement
ii) Whether the invalidity of the registration of a patent can be a defence to a claim for infringement
iii) When can the decision of registration of a patent be revoked
iv) What is the test of prior art and what geographical span is applicable”

With respect to (i), (ii) and (iii), we find it curious that the IPT would set out to determine issues that are already clearly provided in the law.

With respect to iv), the IPT stated as follows on the issue of prior art:

“The Applicant [requesters] in their quest to demonstrate that the patent is anticipated by prior art has exhibited other very similar design No. 2042739 in use as far back as 1994. The shape and design of the exhibit is remarkably similar if not the same as the Respondent’s registered patent. The design was demonstrated to be in existence well before the Respondent applied to register the patent.”

However we are puzzled that the IPT failed to conduct any comparison of the respondent’s claims against those of the prior art. In this connection, the IPT also seemed to suggest that the patent examiner ought to have been called by the Respondent to explain whether in light of design No. 2042739 the examiner would still consider the patent as new and not anticipated by prior art. This would be akin to a Magistrate being required to explain his/her decision at the High Court!

Nevertheless, the IPT maintained that it was incumbent upon the respondent to distinguish its patent from the design no. 2042739 and particularly demonstrate an inventive step and research done to rule out existence of prior art.

In this regard, the IPT observed as follows:

“The Respondent seems to argue that the examiner’s decision is what matters and that only an expert can determine the similarity or otherwise of the designs with regard to prior art… They have neither offered any evidence to demonstrate that an attempt was made to establish that the patent was not anticipated by prior art or made any submissions as ordered…The Respondent instead focused their energies and arguments on challenging the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to hear the matter by filing up to Five (5) applications in the High Court…which were duplications of the same prayers and suffered the similar fate of failure. It was in this diversionary trend that the Respondent probably failed to even file affidavit evidence or submissions in the very matter that mattered most to its patent namely these proceedings.”

From the above, the IPT went on to find that there was indeed evidence that the Respondent’s patent was anticipated by prior art in the form of Design No. 2042739 and that the Respondents failed to demonstrate otherwise.

Although the IPT’s ruling was hard to follow at times and wrought with numerous discussions of irrelevant considerations, the decision to revoke Sanitam sanitary bin patent AP773 is now being heard on appeal before the High Court and we shall update readers on the progress and outcome of the case. In the meantime, our review of the previous cases involving Sanitam’s patent is available here.

Intellectual Property and Outdoor Advertising in Kenya

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Businesses often spend much time and money to create a successful advertising campaign. It is important to protect your intellectual property (IP) assets, so that others do not unfairly copy or free-ride upon your innovative creations.” – Lien Verbauwhede, WIPO.

Like in many parts of the world, the advertising sector in Kenya is the new battle-ground upon which businesses compete to creatively and uniquely pass on relevant information to customers so as to facilitate and positively influence their buying decisions. It is generally agreed that for an advertisement to be effective, it must first get noticed, and then be remembered long enough to persuasively communicate the unique selling proposition of a product or service, so as to make potential customers into actual ones. Outdoor advertising, in particular, is considered a cost effective way of giving messages the maximum exposure. Outdoor advertising includes billboards, outdoor signs, printed messaging, street banners, posters, brochures etc.

This blogger has noted an increase in the number of creative new outdoor advertisements by both medium-sized and large companies leading to a surge in the number of billboards along streets, highways in urban areas. Billboards are so far the preferred medium for outdoor advertising. there are several types of intellectual property rights that are involved in billboard advertising. For instance, most of the creative content on the billboard (writing, pictures, art, graphics, lay-out) may be protected by copyright along with any advertising slogans which may also be protected by trademark law.
In addition, industrial design law may be crucial for protection of billboards. Industrial designs cover the three dimensional form of billboards provided that such form gives a special appearance to a product of industry and can serve as a pattern for a product of industry. In the case of ENG Kenya Ltd v Magnate Ventures Ltd (2009), both the plaintiff and defendant carried on business in the outdoor advertising sector and the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had infringed on the plaintiff’s design for ‘suburban signs’. The court held that the registration of the plaintiffs’ design at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) was proof enough that the design was unique and capable of registration. The plaintiff could therefore claim exclusive right to the design. The court further stated that the defendant copied the plaintiffs’ design in bad faith.

For printing and branding companies, it is important to be very conscious of IP issues in their various advertising solutions. In this regard, the case of Alternative Media Ltd v Safaricom Ltd (2004) is instructive. The plaintiff, who is in the business of advertising graphic designing and media communication solutions, sued the defendant claiming copyright infringement on the plaintiff’s design that it had submitted to the defendant as a proposal to be used on the 250 airtime scratch cards. The court held that the defendant had indeed infringed on the plaintiff’s rights under copyright law because the design they used on their airtime scratch cards was substantially the same as the one submitted by the plaintiff to them as a proposal.

Another exciting area of outdoor advertising is transit advertising. This blogger has previously highlighted the Triple P Media project which involves advertising fused with high-quality custom-made audio and audio-visual content playing in public service vehicles (PSVs) countrywide, in addition to other public places like supermarkets, malls, banking halls, bars, clubs, restaurants etc. There is also the promising innovation by FlashCast Ventures, who have developed a method of scrolling advertisements via LCD displays installed in PSVs. These LCD screens are fitted with global positioning system devices hence messages are programmed to be location specific. This means it is possible to preset a commercial on a supermarket to run when the bus is within its proximity and broadcast special offers, promotions, and goods available. Although geo-local transit advertising may not meet the threshold of absolute novelty required for patent protection in Kenya, there may be other aspects of FlashCast that may be patentable or eligible for industrial design and utility model protection.