Fire in the Sky: Law Society Shamelessly Remains Mum in Copyright Claim

‘Fire in the Sky’ (pictured above) is a stunning photograph of Nairobi’s skyline lit up against the backdrop of New Years’ fireworks. In April 2018, this work by Reinhard Mue aka Rey Matata was unlawfully copied and used by Law Society of Kenya (LSK). In June 2018, Reinhard wrote to LSK complaining about infringement of the rights to his copyright work and threatened to take legal action. To-date, LSK and its elected leaders have failed to respond to Reinhard at all, either formally or otherwise. As a member of LSK, this blogger is disappointed that the LSK leadership has allowed such a straight-forward matter to become a public spectacle.

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Are Intellectual Property Lawyers in Kenya Undercutting by Charging Less in Legal Fees?

supreme-court-fountain-kenya

This blogger recently received the following communication from the Law Society of Kenya (LSK):

UNDERCUTTING

The Council of Law Society of Kenya wishes to draw the attention of members to the provisions of paragraph 4 of The Advocates (Remuneration) (Amendment) Order 2014 which provides as follows:-

“4. An Advocate shall not agree or accept his remuneration at less than provided for by this Order.”

It has come to the attention of the Council that some law firms and advocates are undercutting by charging less than what is provided for under the order.

We are in the process of investigating the various complaints. Any member involved should know that this amounts to professional misconduct.

APOLLO MBOYA, HSC
SECRETARY/CEO

As many may know, the Advocates Act empowers the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court to make orders relating to the remuneration of Advocates for both contentious and non-contentious work. This section is the basis for the Advocates Remuneration Order which sets the minimum charges that an Advocate may charge for services. The Order was recently amended through Legal Notice No. 35 dated April 11, 2014. Curiously, LSK have not uploaded a copy of the Advocates (Remuneration) (Amendment) Order 2014 on their official website available here. However a copy of the Order is available on the Kenya Law website available here.

From an intellectual property (IP) perspective, Schedules 4 and 12 of the Order deal with Trade Marks and Patents, Designs and Utility Models respectively.

For instance, with regard to trade marks, the Order provides that an advocate must not charge less than Kshs. 7,500 for “taking instructions to advise on registrability of a mark or on a point of law or practice”. In a previous post here, we discussed the heightened competition among Kenyan firms with regard to trade mark practice, particularly in light of the recent 2015 WTR1000 rankings. However, this blogger submits that the fee of Kshs. 7,500 is already too low for any of the IP law firms and advocates to be engaged in undercutting. This reasoning may easily apply to other types of trade mark work such as applications, registrations, assignments etc.

With regard to patents, designs and utility models, the Order provides that an advocate must not charge less than Kshs. 25,000 to advise on patentability of an invention or registrability of an industrial design or a utility model or on a point of law or practice. This blogger submits that given the complexity of this area of industrial property work and the duration it generally takes to complete such work, it highly unlikely that any advocate or law firm would consider undercutting. However, the increased awareness among Kenyan inventors and innovators on the need to protect their industrial property may be an important factor fueling undercutting.

This blogger invites readers to share freely their views and experiences with how advocates and law firms charge for intellectual property legal services in Kenya.

Law Society of Kenya Article Review: “Copyright Protection for Foreign Works in Kenya”

We are pleased to have come across a solitary article on Intellectual Property (IP) in the recent Law Society of Kenya Journal Volume 9(2) of 2013. This article is titled “Copyright Protection for Foreign Works in Kenya” and was authored by Mr. Wilfred Lusi.

From the outset, the article appears to be premised on the problematic assumption that foreign works do not enjoy copyright protection in Kenya. Take for instance the first paragraph which reads: “The discussion herein is limited to exploring the significance of extending appropriate copyright protection to foreign works…”

In addition, the article fails to distinguish which category of copyright works will be examined in the article. Despite this lack of focus, a cursory reading of the article reveals that the main works primarily considered by the author were audio-visual and musical works. There also appears to be no distinction drawn in the article between copyright and related rights in foreign works. This blogger respectfully argues that this last distinction would have proved useful particularly from the perspective of administration of rights and enforcement of rights.

Read the rest of this article here.