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.
Recent media reports indicate that Sony Corporation has filed an appeal in the High Court against the decision of the Registrar of Trade Marks at Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) allowing the registration of two trade marks namely “SONY HOLDINGS” (WORDS AND DEVICE) and “SONY HOLDINGS” (WORDS).
Given the high likelihood that the High Court may defer to the expert determination of the Trade Mark Registrar, this blogpost considers the ruling made by the Registrar in the opposition proceedings with the costs totaling about Kshs 1,252,400.00 awarded to Sony Holdings.
In a judgment delivered yesterday (February 9th 2016), the High Court of Uganda in Civil Appeal No 13 of 2015 has set aside the decision of the Registrar of Trade Marks at Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB). Mr. Justice Madrama Izama allowed the appeal by Nairobi Java House Limited with costs and found that the two marks from Kenya and Uganda in question are capable of concurrent usage.
Readers will recall that in an earlier post here, we confirmed that Nairobi Java House had filed an appeal against the decision of the Registrar in relation to trade mark opposition proceedings filed by Mandela Auto Spares Limited. The proceedings were against the registration of trade mark application numbers 48062/2013 “Java House” and “Java Sun” and 48063/2013 “Nairobi Java House” in the name of Nairobi Java House. The Registrar in his ruling upheld the objection of Mandela Auto Spares Limited and found that the proposed registration of Nairobi Java House’s trade marks would lead to confusion in the marketplace.
No Java Love: Recent advert in Ugandan newspaper, NEW VISION
Many readers will recall that earlier this year the Registrar of Trade Marks in Uganda ruled in favour of Mandela Auto Spares in a matter filed to oppose the move by Nairobi Java House Limited to register trade marks containing the word JAVA in class 43 (restaurant services). The basis of the Ugandan company’s claim was that it was the registered proprietor of trademark numbers 29297 JAVAS in class 30; 40162, 47765, 47766, 47767 all CAFÉ JAVAS in classes 30, 21, 32 and 43 respectively. A copy of the ruling is available here.
This blogger has learned that Nairobi Java House now rebranded as Java House Africa is in the process of appealing the decision of the Registrar in the Commercial Court. In the meantime, Java House continues its aggressive expansion across East Africa and beyond, according to Reuters.
Readers of this blog may be aware of the 50-year trade mark battle that has been going on between Lacoste S.A and Crocodile International PTE Ltd (“CIL”). These companies were formed about 10 years apart on opposite corners of the globe: one in France in 1933 and the other in Singapore in 1943. Historically, the battle has focused on Lacoste’s right-facing crocodile mark and CIL’s left-facing crocodile mark with trademark suits filed in numerous jurisdictions around the world.
This blogger has received a copy of a recent trade mark ruling by the Registrar of Trade Marks referenced as In Re TMA No. 68687 “KINGSTONE”, Opposition By Bridgestone Corporation, 25th May 2015. A copy of the ruling is available here.
In this matter, Sichuan Yuanxing Rubber Co. Ltd applied for registration of “KINGSTONE” as a word mark in Class 12 of the International Classification with respect to tyres. Bridgestone Corporation opposed the registration of the mark by stating that its mark “BRIDGESTONE” is a well-known mark in Kenya and around the world registered in various classes including class 12. Therefore Bridgestone argued that the mark “KINGSTONE” is so similar to the its trade marks “BRIDGESTONE” and “FIRESTONE” as to be identical to the latter and Sichuan’s trade mark would be likely to deceive and or cause confusion among the members of the public.
This blogger has come across a recent judgment from Uganda’s Commercial Court in the case of Tuskys (U) Ltd v. Tusker Mattresses (U) Ltd  UGCOMMC 91. In this case, TUSKYS, a Ugandan Company dealing in arts and crafts, sued Tusker Mattresses, a subsidiary of Tusker Mattresses (K) Ltd over infringement of the trademark “TUSKYS”. Tuskys asked the court for damages, costs and interest from Tusker Mattresses for denying it the exclusive use of its trademark. Tuskys also prayed court for an injunction “stopping Tusker Mattresses from using the trademark” which according to the company’s Managing Director was registered in Class 18 for crafts and arts in 2008.
The following facts were agreed upon by both parties:
1. Tuskys is the registered proprietor of “TUSKYS” trademark in Uganda in respect of goods in class 18 (arts and crafts).
2. Tusker is the registered proprietor of the “Time to Go, Tuskys, Your Friendly Supermarket” trademark in Uganda in respect of goods in class 16 and is involved in the business of running supermarket retail chain under their registered trademark.
3. Tusker duly complied with the orders of Hon. Justice Hellen Obura and accordingly rebranded all its shop and items to reflect their registered trademark.
4. Tuskys avers that Tusker’s use of the word Tuskys mark in conduct of their business is an infringement of their trademark for which its reputation and trade pattern has been greatly injured.