For the Second Time, Sony Trade Marks Case Goes to the Court of Appeal

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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 [2018] eKLR. In order to discern the likely grounds of appeal, it is important to consider this recent judgment made by the High Court.

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How A Typo Cost Safaricom the “OKOA STIMA” Trade Mark in Favour of Colour Planet

okoa stima safaricom colour planet trademark case

Recently, a leading newspaper published a story here stating that Safaricom Limited had obtained interlocutory orders against Colour Planet Limited stating that the latter was “forbidden from interfering with any contracts Safaricom has under the banner Okoa Stima, suggesting to any third party that Safaricom does not have the right to use the name Okoa Stima.” The rest of the story is filled with several contradictory and confusing facts regarding trade mark searches made, trade mark applications filed and trade mark registrations with respect to the Okoa Stima mark by both Safaricom and Colour Planet.

This blogpost is intended to set the record straight on the specific issue of the chronology of events at the Trade Mark Registry of Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) involving both Colour Planet and Safaricom between March 2015 and January 2016. For intellectual property (IP) practitioners, this post may also serve as a cautionary tale on the importance of care and caution when handling your clients’ matters pending before KIPI.

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High Court Orders Stay in “KENYA BOYS CHOIR” Trade Mark Dispute

Kenyan Boys Choir Boys Choir Kenya Twitter Account Verified

Earlier this year, we reported here this ruling: In the Matter of Trade Mark No. KE/T/2010/67586 “KENYA BOYS CHOIR” (WORDS) in Classes 16 and 41 in the Name of Joseph Muyale Inzai and Expungement Proceedings Thereto by Kenyan Boys Choir by the Assistant Registrar of Trade Marks at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI).
In this case, one Joseph Muyale Inzai filed an application to register his trade mark “KENYA BOYS CHOIR” (WORDS) before the Registrar of Trade Marks in classes 16 and 41 of the Nice Classification. The mark was approved, published and thereafter entered in the Register of Trade Marks in 2010.

In the same year, Members of a choir known as Kenyan Boys Choir obtained registration of their business names “THE KENYAN BOYS CHOIR” and “THE BOYS CHOIR OF KENYA” under the Registration of Business Names Act. These Members of the Kenyan Boys Choir filed an application for expungement of Inzai’s mark claiming that they were aggrieved by the entry of the mark for various reasons including that they were the true owners of the mark: “KENYAN BOYS CHOIR” which was virtually identical to the mark in question: “KENYA BOYS CHOIR”. The Registrar ruled in favour of the Choir members in addition to an award of costs. The Registrar found that Inzai had no valid and legal claim to the mark for the reason that his ownership of the mark was not sufficiently substantiated as required by law.

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Kenafric ‘Fuma’ Footwear Denies Counterfeiting Claims by Puma

Kenafric Fuma Footwear

This blogger has previously blogged here and here about Kenafric’s fatal attraction to well-known trade marks, to put it mildly. The latest victim of Kenafric’s attraction is none other than Puma AG Rudolf Dassler Sport (Puma for short). In this connection, this blogger came across a recent ruling in the case of Kenafric Industries Limited & another v Anti-Counterfeit Agency & 3 others [2015] eKLR.

In this case, Puma through its representative Paul Ramara lodged complaints at Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) against Kenafric for trade mark infringement. ACA and Ramara went to Kenafric’s premises and demanded to check the same for goods in the name of Puma a demand Mikul Shah a director at Kenafric declined to comply with due to the fact that his company had not been served with any Court order directing the said search and entry. Consequently, Shah was arrested, taken to Ruaraka Police Station and charged with the offence of obstruction and released on bond.

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Oh là là Lacoste: Crocodile International Trade Mark Awaiting Registration in Kenya

Lacoste SA Crocodile International trademark logo

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.

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All Eyes on Standard Bank as Barclays Bank “PRESTIGE BANKING” Trade Mark Published

Prestige Banking Trade Mark Barclays Standard Bank

The image above is a collage of screenshots from the websites of Standard Bank and Barclays Bank showing that both banks have banking products/services branded with the identical words: “Prestige Banking”. In this connection, readers of this blog will no doubt have come across the advertisement of the application for registration of Trade Mark Application (T.M.A) Number 79424 “PRESTIGE BANKING” (WORDS) by Barclays Bank PLC on pages 10-12 of the August 2015 Industrial Property Journal. As a result, this blogger reckons that the stage is set for Standard Bank to oppose the registration of this mark by Barclays Bank, if it so wishes.

In this regard, Standard Bank would also wish to consider the recently published ruling of the Registrar of Trade Mark in the matter referenced as In Re TMA No. 79424 “BARCLAYS PRESTIGE BANKING”, EX PARTE HEARING., 6th February 2015. In this ex parte hearing, Barclays appeared before the Registrar to challenge the latter’s decision to reject Barclays’ applications for “BARCLAYS PRESTIGE BANKING” (WORDS) and “PRESTIGE BANKING” (WORDS) for being similar to the mark SMA NO. 2976 “PRESTIGE PLAN” (WORDS AND DEVICE) in the name of the Standard Bank of South Africa with respect to services of a similar description and character as those in respect of which the applications by Barclays had been made. A copy of the ruling is available here.

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Conflicts between Trade Marks Registry and Companies Registry: High Court Ruling in JamboPay v Jambo Express Limited Case

jambopay

“…whereas the Companies Act deals with the registration of companies and the responsible office is the Registrar of companies, the Act is often to find itself in conflict with the Trade Marks Act for as longs as there is no interlink between the two Acts of Parliament in practical sense. The conflict arises this way. For instance, a trademark is registered in respect of a class of services may conflict with a trade name of a company or company with similar activities or services. This lack of coordination between registering authorities has caused and will continue to cause extreme anxiety to consumers of the two services as well as judges who will be called upon to resolve those conflicts which would otherwise have been avoided were it not for the unhealthy state of institutional operations.” – Justice F. Gikonyo in Webtribe Limited T/A Jambopay v Jambo Express Limited [2014] eKLR at para 15

This blogger has come across a recent ruling by the High Court in the case of Webtribe Limited T/A Jambopay v Jambo Express Limited [2014] eKLR. In this case, Webtribe went to court claiming that Jambopay Express Limited infringes on Webtribe’s trademark Jambopay. In support of its claim, Webtribe produced a certificate of registration of trademark stating that the latter is the registered proprietor of the trade mark number 67127 consisting of the word ‘Jambopay’ registered in class 36 which is valid and subsisting from the 17th December, 2009. Jambopay Express Limited refuted Webtribe’s claim and produced Certificate of Incorporation number CPR/2012/86453 stating that the latter is a company that was registered on 11th October, 2012.

Although the main subject of the suit was the alleged infringement of a trade mark as well as a challenge to the registration of a company, the learned judge restricted his ruling to determining whether Webtribe had met the legal thresholds to be granted its request for a temporary injunction. The court found against Webtribe’s application and stated as follows:

“…a just determination of the issues herein especially of the plaintiff’s [Webtribe’s] right and alleged infringement of trademark does not just depend on the registration of the Trademark ‘Jambopay’ by the plaintiff but includes determination of other issues such as whether the protection provided to the name “Jambopay” by the trademark registered in favour of the Plaintiff overrides the protection of the name “Jambopay Express Limited” secured through the registration of the name as a company; and whether the defendant’s [Jambopay Express Limited’s] intent in registration of its trade name was to cause confusion among consumers and to capitalize in the Plaintiff’s goodwill in the online payment services market. Equally, the circumstance in which the Defendant Company was registered is in the center of this suit and whether it is an infringement as alleged. In light thereof, the material before the court is not sufficient for the Court to issue an injunction.”

As many readers may know, the Trade Marks Registry and the Companies Registry were previously both under the State Law Office. Therefore when registering a trade mark or reserving a company name, it was easier to close reference either the Companies Registry database or the Trade Marks Registry database to see if there were any conflicts. This has since changed. The Trade Marks Registry is under KIPI while the Companies Registry remains under the State Law Office. This legislative and institutional separation has brought about many challenges and disputes for people who are registering companies or trade marks in Kenya. As a result there has been an increase in “name-squatting” which impedes business and trade markets in the country. In aiming to resolve these disputes, aggrieved parties are forced to approach the High Court for determination which ends up being both expensive and time-consuming.

In an earlier case: Agility Logistics Limited & 2 Others v. Agility Logistics Kenya Limited, the court was faced to a similar dispute as in the present JamboPay case. In the Agility case, the court found that the plaintiff’s trademark protection overrides the defendant’s protection by the Companies Act. The court also found that the defendant’s registration at the Companies Registry was opportunistic. In arriving at this holding, the court in the Agility case stated as follows:-

“My take on the two pieces of legislation is that whereas the Companies Act governs registration of company names, the fact of registration per se does not extend protection to the name of the company itself as does the protection provided by a trademark.

Further, it is also pertinently clear that the protection extended by a trademark transcends the face value of a name and inheres in the name a distinctiveness that is associated with the reputation and goodwill that the proprietor of the mark has invested and earned through creation of value, quality and trust. So much so that a customer or user of the service needs only see the mark and associate itself with certain expectations and standards. This is not the case with a company name which is only a mark of identity to the legal person that is the company. Although company names may eventually earn the notoriety, reputation and association with certain standards in like measure as do trademarks, the extent of exclusivity and protection of the company name, without registration of a mark, would still fall short of the standard of protection conferred by a trademark.

The upshot of the foregoing analysis is that in the present matter, the protection provided to the name “Agility” by the trademark registered in favour of the Plaintiffs by far overrides the protection of the name “Agility Logistics” secured through the mere registration of the name as a company. The exclusivity in the use of the name that is conferred upon the Plaintiff through the Kenyan registration of the mark and worldwide by virtue of the status of “well known mark” confers locus standi upon the Plaintiffs to sustain a claim for infringement of the mark that the Defendant cannot equally enjoy by virtue of registration of the company under the Companies Act.”

This blogger will be closely following the developments and eventual outcome of the JamboPay case.