Kenya’s Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill Signed into Law

Uhuru Kenyatta signs Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill into law 16 May 2018

On 16 May 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured above) assented to the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill, 2018. The Bill was passed by the National Assembly on 26 April 2018. Readers of this blog will note that, unlike the previous Computer and Cybercrimes Bill, 2017 that was first tabled in Parliament, the Act now contains some new provisions relating to blockchain, mobile money, offences related to cybersquatting, electronic messages, revenge porn, identity theft and impersonation, as well as the newly created National Computer and Cybercrimes Coordination Committee. A copy of the Act is available here.

From an intellectual property (IP) perspective, the Act is significant for several reasons, including that it creates new offences and prescribes penalties related to cyber-infringements, it regulates jurisdiction, as well as the powers to investigate search and gain access to or seize items in relation to cybercrimes. It also regulates aspects of electronic evidence, relative to cybercrimes as well as aspects of international cooperation in respect to investigations of cybercrimes. Finally it creates several stringent obligations and requirements for service providers. Continue reading

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Kenya Copyright Board Suggests Guernsey Approach to Image Rights Protection

Kenya Copyright Board Publication Copyright News Issue 18 2015 Cover

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”.

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Jurisdiction is Everything: Time to Merge Tribunals for Copyright, Industrial Property, Seed and Plant Varieties

tribunal judiciary kenya cms-image-000005230

As readers may know, a government taskforce had earlier recommended the merger of the three intellectual property (IP) offices dealing with copyright, industrial property and anti-counterfeit matters. The implementation of these recommendations appears to have stalled with no progress made to-date. In addition to the IP offices, there is also the matter of the various IP dispute resolution bodies created under the various IP laws: the Industrial  Property  Act establishes the Industrial  Property  Tribunal, the Copyright Act establishes the Competent Authority (akin to a Copyright Tribunal), the Anti-Counterfeit Act  establishes the Anti-Counterfeit Agency and the Seeds and Plant Varieties Act establishes the Seeds and Plant Tribunal.

Recently, the Judiciary Working Committee on Transition and Restructuring of Tribunals developed a Draft Tribunal Bill 2015 to help domicile all tribunals under the Judiciary. This is an important step that could benefit IP owners and users in the quick and expert settlement of various IP-related disputes.

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High Court Dismisses Judicial Review Application in “ZERO B” Trade Mark Dispute

Zero-B

This blogger has come across a recent judgment by the High Court in the case of Republic v Anti-Counterfeit Agency & 2 others Ex parte Surgippharm Limited [2015] eKLR. A copy of the judgment is available here. In this case previously highlighted here, Surgipharm Limited went to the High Court seeking judicial review orders to prohibit the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) from carrying out its enforcement mandates under the Anti-Counterfeit Act. Following a complaint against by Wiskam against Surgippharm, the Chief Magistrate’s Court, Nairobi granted ACA a warrant of entry, search and seizure was issued against Surgippharm with regard to the alleged counterfeiting activity.

While Surgippharm admits that Wiskam is the registered holder of the “ZERO -B” trademark in Kenya, Wiskam failed to disclose to ACA and the Magistrates’ Courts that Surgippharm had initiated proceedings for the expungement of the mark with the Registrar of Trade Marks at Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI). Surgippharm also alleges that Wiskam also failed to disclose that had already commenced proceedings in the high court of Kenya seeking, inter alia, for an injunction order and an award of damages against Surgippharm, being HCCC NO. 542 of 2011.

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Preliminary Objections in Copyright and Industrial Property Cases: High Court Ruling in Vermont Flowers EPZ v. Waridi Creations

Vermont Flowers

Recently the High Court made a ruling in the case of Vermont Flowers (EPZ) Limited v Waridi Creations Limited HCC 524 of 2014, a patent and copyright infringement suit filed by the Belgian-owned Vermont Flowers against Waridi Creations, a company formed by Vermont’s former Kenyan employees. A copy of the ruling is available here.

Vermont Flowers made an application for an injunction and Anton Piller orders on the basis that it is the registered owner of various copyrighted and patented manufacturing processes and designs and that Waridi Creations had infringed those copyrights and patents. However Waridi Creations, through the very able representation of Senior Counsel, successfully used the preliminary objections of jurisdiction and locus standi (standing) to have Vermont’s application dismissed.

According to media reports, Vermont Flowers claims that its former employees Godino Mwasaru, Nelson Oware and Jennifer Mumo formed Waridi Creations. Vermont Flowers further claimed that the ex-employees were on the verge of exporting a large consignment of flowers vases that have been branded with Vermont’s logo and were likely to destroy evidence of the copyright infringement. An interesting fact is the reported criminal suit instituted by Vermont Flowers against the ex-employees who are now Waridi’s Directors. In this criminal suit, it is reported that Vermont Chairman testified under oath that “Vermont had no registered invention or patent in Kenya and that the floral vases are not copyright protected in any country in the world”.

In the ruling, the court makes several important points on the jurisdiction objection in patent suits and the locus standi objection in copyright suits.

In addressing the jurisdiction of the Industrial Property Tribunal, the judge states as follows:

“The Industrial Property Tribunal under section 106 has been conferred with jurisdiction by statute to grant relief of; 1) injunction to restrain infringement of patent or registered utility or industrial design; 2) damages or 3) any other relief provided in law in respect of infringement of patent or registered utility or industrial design (…) my considered view is that such applicant [for grant of patent] like the Applicant here [Vermont Flowers], has protection in law and may apply for injunction to stop infringement or claim compensation for infringement of the invention under published application for grant of patent, as if a patent had been granted for that invention, as long as he can show that the person, without his authorization, performed any of the inventions, claimed in the published application, and that the said person, at the time of the performance of the act, had; a) actual knowledge that the invention that he was using was the subject matter of a published application; or 2) received written notice that the invention that he was using was the subject matter of a published application, such application being identified in the said notice by its serial number. The Applicant made an application for grant of patent through application No KE/P/2012001715, paid the relevant fee and notification of filing date of the application was given by the Managing Director of the Kenya Industrial Property Institute to be 3/2/2012. The Applicant, therefore, is covered by the jurisdiction of the Tribunal in the Industrial Act and they should refer the claims which form part of the application for grant of patent to the Tribunal. The Application before me in so far as it relates to the grant of patent under Industrial Property Act should be and is hereby referred to the Industrial Property Tribunal for relief.

I wish to reinforce my decision above through the following rendition. See and consider section 55 of the Industrial Property Act. (….) Note that section 55 refers to acts of infringement under section 54 as some of the acts of infringement which can be restrained by an injunction. Therefore, an injunction to restrain infringement of patent or utility model or industrial design is issued at first instance by the tribunal under section 106 of the Act. And therefore, as the Applicant is also the applicant for grant of patent under the Act, I am persuaded and I have so held that the Tribunal has statutory jurisdiction over the claims which have been presented before this court. The claims herein fall within section 55(c) of the Industrial [Property] Act.”

The learned judge also hints at possible areas for legislative action to aid proper interpretation of the law:

” I do not think section 55(c) intended the relief thereto to be canvassed or sought only after registration of the patent or certificate of utility model or industrial design. I think, the law wanted to provide for remedy and protection to an invention of an applicant whose application has been published. The said section is a basis for an injunction to restrain a person who without authorization, performed any of the inventions, claimed in the published application as if a patent had been granted for that invention. I wish, however, to see legislative intervention towards clarifying the section by providing some measure of protection to utility or design for which registration has been filed and accepted by the MD of the Institute. Section 19 of the Companies Act will provide some lead here; on written application being received, the name is reserved for sixty days pending registration of the company. However, such reservation should be subject to prior users of the invention or contemporaneous inventions.”

The learned judge makes an identical finding in a recent ruling in the case of Naili East Africa Limited v Samuel Kariuki & another HCC 295 of 2014 where the plaintiff sought injunctive relief to restrain the Defendants from infringing the rights under the Industrial Property Act in an invention described as “The aquatic plant removal apparatus which includes a heavy duty marine net preferably made of carbon fiber. To the net are attached to a winch, the winch being mechanically driven by deriving its rotary power from a tractor, a lorry or electric motor”. A copy of the ruling is available here.

In addressing the issue of standing to institute a copyright infringement suit, the judge states as follows:

“As long as the Applicant [Vermont Flowers] is claiming exclusive licensee of copyright which is not domestic registered copyright, the assignment must be accompanied by a letter of verification from the Board. None has been provided. That requirement is critical and its importance is well understood when one considers two things; 1) the international obligations of the nation to provide for adequate and effective protection of rights of copyright owners; and 2) the provision of section 33(2) on assignments and testamentary disposition of copyright (….) The nature of intellectual property and the strict requirements of the law make it absolutely necessary that the licensee should plead his status that he is an exclusive licensee; give all particulars of the licence as well as the copyright for which he has been granted exclusive licence by the owner. (….) It is readily discernible from the plaint and the application without probing for any evidence, that; there is not specific pleading in the plaint on exclusive licensee and the specific copyrights on which the licence is granted; yet the application and the affidavits filed thereto introduces exclusive licensee or assignment. As long as that situation has not been clarified by amendment of the plaint, the application for injunction lacks a foot on which to stand.”

This fatal error by Vermont Flowers compounded with the apparent poor drafting of its pleadings are not punished with a dismissal of the entire suit and in this regard the learned judge states that: “I hereby uphold the preliminary objections but in respect of the application only. (….) I will not extend these finding to the plaint as the plaintiff [Vermont Flowers] can always amend the plaint to measure up to the legal thresholds in such cases. That course will also give the plaintiff an opportunity to have its day in court.”

This blogger will continue to follow the developments in this case.

Patent Litigation in Kenya: Lessons from the Sanitam Services East Africa Cases

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UPDATE: The Star Newspaper has confirmed the invalidation of Sanitam’s patent no AP 773 in an article published here.

“The [matter] before us focuses on a branch of law which has scanty litigation and therefore minimal jurisprudential corpus in this country, but which has exploded on the world stage since the end of the 19th Century when the international community formed two international unions to promote it – Intellectual Property” – Court of Appeal in Sanitam Services East Africa Limited v Rentokil Limited 2006

IPKenya’s friend and the Chief Patent Examiner at KIPI informs us that the Industrial Property Tribunal has recently made a ruling revoking patent no AP 773 granted to Sanitam Services with respect to is sanitary bin. This brings to conclusion a long and arduous battle fought by Sanitam against several manufacturers since the late 90s to protect its sanitary bin invention.

This blogpost chronicles the various court cases brought by Sanitam both nationally and regionally to assert its patent rights. It is argued that Sanitam has made an enormous contribution to advancing intellectual property law jurisprudence and raising pertinent issues in the area of patent prosecution and litigation.

In 1997, Sanitam alleges that it designed and invented a foot-operated litter/sanitary disposal bin for use in the hygienic storage and disposal of sanitary towels, tampons, surgical dressings, serviettes and other waste material. One of the novel features of the sanitary bin invention claimed by Sanitam is that it has a flap opening to receive the waste and covering the contents inside so that whoever is operating it cannot see the contents inside even when using it and also the odour is minimized by the invention. This invention titled “Foot Operated Sanitary/Litter Bin” (ARIPO patent No AP 773) was granted and issued in October 1999 by the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO).

In Sanitam Services (EA) Ltd v. Anipest Kenya Ltd & Anor Civil Case No. 1898 of 2000, the late Justice Peter John Smithson Hewett sitting in the High Court dismissed a suit filed by Sanitam seeking an injunction to prevent Anipest from carrying out any acts exclusively granted to an owner of a patent under section 36 of the Industrial Property Act of 1989 (now repealed). PJS Hewett’s ruling dated March 2001 is significant as it addresses a major shortcoming in the operationalisation of the repealed Industrial Property Act, namely the absence of the Industrial Property Tribunal over 10 years after the Act came into effect. More significantly, this ruling offers the first critical analysis of Sanitam’s novelty claims in the sanitary bin invention.

The learned judge, reviews the abstract of Sanitam’s abstract and states:

“Assuming as I do, that the ARIPO rules of patentability are the same as or very similar to those of Kenya, I return to the abstract to see what it tells me particularly about novelty.
“A foot operated litter/sanitary disposal bin comprising a container (1)[”:] nothing novel there;
“closeable by a cover (2)”: nothing novel there either:
a disposal lid(3)”-still nothing novel:
“at the top, with the disposal lid being displaceable by a foot operated pedal (4)”: still nothing novel:
“and a lift lever (5)…” nothing novel,
“to move between open and closed positions. The bin is defined such that the user cannot see the contents of the container, waste scavengers cannot have access to the contents, emission of unpleasant odour is reduced and the contents cannot spill out if the bin is overturned.”
I only have to look at this matter prima facie. Are all these attributes prima facie novel. Prima facie they seem to be to me on evidence many many years old: certainly they do not seem to me to be prima facie novel-which is all I have to consider.”

This blogger submits that this finding by the learned judge paved the way for other litigants and manufacturers to question the validity of AP 773 which has now finally culminated in the revocation of the patent by the Industrial Property Tribunal.

In Sanitam Services (EA) Ltd v Rentokil (K) Ltd & Anor Civil Suit No. 58 of 1999, Sanitam moved to the High Court orders of permanent injunction to restrain Rentokil Ltd and Kentainers Ltd from manufacturing, selling and distributing the sanitary bins which infringed on its patent. Rentokil and Kentainers contended that they were already manufacturing the product before the plaintiff had obtained a patent over the invention. Therefore they argued that Sanitam could not claim exclusive rights over the product.

In Justice Onyango Otieno’s ruling delivered in May 2002, the court dismissed the Sanitam’s suit holding that it failed to prove that it had obtained a patent over its foot operated sanitary bin. In addition, Sanitam was already distributing its product 2 years prior to the registration of the patent. Therefore Rentokil and Kentainers had not infringed Sanitam’s rights by creating a similar product and obtain a market for it.

This case is significant for at least three main reasons. First and foremost, the court upheld patents granted by ARIPO as valid and enforceable within Kenya pursuant to the latter’s obligations under the ARIPO Protocol.

Secondly, although the court made several obiter dicta remarks regarding the novelty of Sanitam’s bin invention, the court ultimately held that Courts of law must defer to the National Patent Office KIPI and the Regional Patent Office ARIPO on questions pertaining to the patentability of any invention in dispute. According to the court, KIPI and ARIPO are the bodies with the technical know-how to investigate the patentability or otherwise of inventions and that in the present case, one of the two had presumably investigated the invention and found it fit to grant a patent for it. Therefore whoever challenges the grant of any patent must do so before these institutions and not in court.

Finally, the court made an important finding on the burden of proof in matters relating to infringement of industrial property, particularly where the industrial property in question is unregistered. In the case of Sanitam, the court found that since there was no patent in existence at the time a similar bin to Sanitam’s was produced, Sanitam could not claim patent infringement.

In Sanitam Services (EA) Ltd v Rentokil (K) Ltd Civil Appeal No. 228 of 2004, Sanitam moved to the highest court in the land (at the time), the Court of Appeal, seeking for the Court to reverse the above decision of the lower court (High Court) in favour of Rentokil. Sanitam’s appeal against the High Court Decision was partially successful as the Court of Appeal granted Sanitam an injunction for the lifetime of the disputed patent AP 773 with effect from 16th December 1999. However the Court of Appeal did not award Sanitam any damages thereby concurring with the High Court’s determination that Sanitam had not discharged the onus of proof.

In 2008, ARIPO published an entry in its Journal to the effect that Sanitam’s patent AP 773 had lapsed for failure to pay annual fees. Soon thereafter, Sanitam brought an appeal against the decision of the ARIPO Patent Office removing its patent from the Register due to non-payment of annual maintenance fees. It was argued that maintenance fees were consistently late since the patent was granted in 1999. The ARIPO Appeal Board concluded that both parties were to blame for the delays in the payments; the Office had failed to send reminders, which it is required to do under the Harare Protocol. Therefore the Office was urged to strictly observe the provisions of the Protocol particularly those pertaining to time limits, information delivery and processing procedures.

Consequently, the Appeal Board ordered the patent be reinstated in respect of the designated states, including Kenya and Uganda.

In Sanitam Services (EA) Ltd v Bins Nairobi Services Ltd Civil Suit No. 597 of 2007, Sanitam successfully moved the High Court for orders of injunction against Bins restraining the latter from a host of acts alleged to be infringing on Sanitam’s patent AP 773.

The issue for determination by the court was found to be whether Sanitam had established a case to entitle the court to grant the orders of injunction sought. In making this finding, the court reaffirms the earlier position of the High Court in the Rentokil case that the court is not the right institution to question the patentability of any invention in dispute and is bound to respect a patent duly issued by KIPI and/or ARIPO.

Therefore with respect to Sanitam’s onus of proof, the court found that the latter had proved that it had a valid patent ARIPO Patent no. AP 773, which was infringed by Bins through the acts of offering for sale or hire of foot-operated sanitary bins without Sanitam’s authorisation.

In Rentokil Initial Kenya Ltd v Sanitam Services (EA) Ltd Civil Suit No. 702 of 2008, Sanitam successfully defended a suit filed by Rentokil seeking that the former be restrained from threatening, intimidating, harassing, embarassing and confusing Rentokil’s clients and customers over sanitary bins it provides.

Rentokil moved to the High Court after Sanitam wrote letters to the former’s clients warning them to stop using its sanitary bins, which Sanitam considered an infringement of its patent AP 773. Rentokil’s line of reasoning was that it had developed a new bin by changing certain features to distinguish it from Sanitam’s bin registered as AP 773. Therefore Rentokil claimed that by writing letters to its clients, Sanitam was seeking to enforce a patent over a completely different bin.

Sanitam’s defence was simply to focus on its granted patent and prove to the court that Rentokil’s bin was similar to its AP 773. To this end, Sanitam presented an expert report to substantiate that the two bins were similar and that the functionality of Rentokil’s bin was same as that covered under patent AP773.

It is argued that if Rentokil had focussed on Sanitam’s threatening letters rather the differences between its bins and Sanitam’s patent, Rentokil may have been successful with its application for injunction at the Industrial Property Tribunal under section 108 of the Industrial Property Act. This section reads:
“108. (1) Any person threatened with infringement proceedings who can prove that the acts performed or to be performed by him do not constitute infringement of the patent or the registered utility model or industrial design may request the Tribunal to grant an injunction to prohibit such threats and to award damages for financial loss resulting from the threats.”

All in all, this case is instructive to all litigants in industrial property matters to purse their matters with the Industrial Property Tribunal rather than with the High Court, in the first instance.

In Chemserve Cleaning Services Ltd v Sanitam Services EA Ltd [2009], the Industrial Property Tribunal ruled that it had no jurisdiction to hear applications to revoke patents granted by ARIPO. Sanitam challenged the Tribunal’s jurisdiction in a preliminary objection stating that section 59 of the Industrial Property Act only incorporates patents granted by ARIPO in relation to their effect in Kenya and that other issues such as revocation and not expressly contemplated in the section.

The section reads as follows:

“59. A patent, in respect of which Kenya is a designated state, granted by ARIPO by virtue of the ARIPO Protocol shall have the same effect in Kenya as a patent granted under this Act except where the Managing Director communicates to ARIPO, in respect of the application thereof, a decision in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol that if a patent is granted by ARIPO, that patent shall have no effect in Kenya.”

Therefore the main issue between the parties was the meaning of the word “effect” in the above section. Sanitam successfully convinced the Tribunal that “effect” simply means “the powers conferred to a right holder by the patent in Kenya”, therefore the only matters the Tribunal can hear related to infringement and compulsory licensing.

This decision by the Industrial Property Tribunal was reversed by the High Court in an ex parte judicial review application heard and determined by Justice Musinga on December 1, 2010. Chemserve Cleaning Services Ltd obtained an order to compel the Tribunal to reinstate, hear and determine an application for revocation of ARIPO patent AP 773 filed by Chemserve in 2008.

In Sanitam Services (EA) Ltd v Tamia Ltd Petition No. 305 of 2012, Sanitam sought reliefs from the court to have Tamia prevented from violating its IP rights over the invention patent no. AP773, including the destruction of all infringing bins in Tamia’s possession. Justice Majanja’s ruling sheds crucial light on the state’s obligations under the Constitution with regards to intellectual property rights under Articles 11 and 40.

The learned judge rightly dismissed Sanitam’s petition with two well-reasoned findings: firstly, the petitioner had failed to demonstrate how the State (in this case, KIPI and/or the Industrial Property Tribunal) had failed to honour its obligations under the Constitution. Secondly, it was unnecessary for the petitioner to invoke Article 22 of the Constitution to enforce IP rights since these are “ordinary rights” that can be enforced through the legal mechanisms provided by statute law (in this case the Industrial Property Act).

In Chemserve Cleaning Services Ltd v Sanitam Services EA Ltd [2013], the Industrial Property Tribunal rejected Chemserve’s request for the invalidation of Sanitam’s patent no AP 773.
This case is significant as the Tribunal makes several findings on the time period and burden of proof requirements when requesting revocation of a patent.

With regard to the time period requirement to revoke a patent, the Tribunal held that the legislative intent behind section 103 was to prevent a situation where a party becomes aware of a patent, then “literally sits on the right to revoke it until a later date for commercial convenience in the form of damages and accounts for profits”. The Tribunal also noted that Chemserve had failed to file for an extension of time under Rule 33 at the time it filed the request for revocation.

Even if Chemserve had filed its request in a timely manner, the Tribunal held that it had failed to meet the burden of proof required to establish that the patent was invalid. Chemserve argued that the patent lacked novelty and inventive step and formed part of prior art however it chose not to produce any evidence other than the affidavit and statement by its General Manager!

We are back full circle to 2014, where a recent report indicates that the Industrial Property Tribunal in a ruling made on 21 January 2014 has revoked patent no. AP 773. This blogger will examine this ruling once it is made available to the public.

All in all, it is beyond dispute that the long list of Sanitam cases presented above have in one way or another shaped the landscape of intellectual property litigation in Kenya and in Africa.