Idea/Expression Murkiness: Court Ruling in Nation Media Copyright Suit over ‘LIT 360’ Simulcast Show

Lit360 Nation Media Group April 2018 31337776_588196948202537_5963395935391186944_o

Like clockwork, behind every mega corporate launch in Kenya is a law suit over allegedly ‘stolen’ intellectual property (IP). In a recent High Court ruling in Incognito Productions Limited & another v Nation Media Group [2018] eKLR, the learned judge appeared to sympathise with the Plaintiffs but not enough to grant their application for a temporary injunction against the Defendant, one of Kenya’s largest media conglomerates that recently rolled out a multi-million shilling project dubbed ‘Lit Music’.

The face of Lit Music (which is really just a record label) is ‘LIT 360’, a 1-hour programme made available simultaneously on Nation’s radio, television and digital platforms. LIT 360 was designed with the aim of talent scouting, soliciting and harvesting content, as well as distribution, marketing and promotion of musical talent. As readers may have undoubtedly figured out by now, the Plaintiffs’ claim is that Nation unlawfully appropriated their concept which underlies Lit Music and LIT 360 based on a series of confidential business proposals made to Nation by the Plaintiffs between July 2016 and March 2017.

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Recap of 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2015 #GESKenya2015

6th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) Nairobi Kenya 2015 July Victor Nzomo Delegate

In a previous post here, this blogger announced that among the topics to be discussed at the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) was the protection of intellectual capital with a sharp focus on intellectual property (IP). In addition to the IP Workshop on the first day, there was a Creative Economy Workshop on the second day. According to this workshop’s introduction, the creative industries (arts, entertainment, fashion) are attractive to many young people but few understand the business behind these industries and how to tap the creative economy to give them returns. On the workshop’s panel was a group of successful creatives who are turning the creative arts into sources of revenue, jobs and wealth creation.

In addition to the above, this blogpost will profile some of the top products and services pitched during the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Tech-I Competition at GES which recorded over 790 applications from 74 countries in the sectors of agriculture, energy, healthcare, and information communication technology.

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Quick Thoughts on “Zindua Cafe”: Safaricom’s New Idea Submission Portal

zindua cafe safaricom homepage

This week, Safaricom launched “Zindua Cafe”, an idea submission web portal which allows registered users to submit ideas, applications or prototypes to Safaricom Limited, Kenya’s leading mobile network operator. Once these submissions are made to Safaricom, the telecommunication giant will review them internally and send either a ‘interested’ or a ‘regret’ response to the user. If Safaricom is ‘interested’ in any submission, the user will be offered a non-disclosure agreement and commmercial contract governing Safaricom’s intended implementation of the submission.

Having taken Zindua Cafe for a test-run, this blogger has a few thoughts on Safaricom’s new innovation portal:-

1. Intellectual property (IP) advice: Zindua Cafe is an excellent source for unsolicited legal advice on IP rights protection. The portal reads in part: “We strongly recommend that you patent your idea or get your IP in place”. The portal then explains the distinction between WIPO, KIPI and KECOBO and provides links to their respective websites. In the case of IP- protected submissions, the terms of use on the portal clearly state that users “irrevocably grant Safaricom the unrestricted right or license to use any idea or material [submitted] for the purpose of improving it, assessing its viability and determining its progression to the next stage within the Innovation Cycle”. In this regard, users of the portal agree that such use by Safaricom under the above license “shall not be deemed a violation of the user’s rights or the rights of any third party or give rise to any claim based on such alleged violation.”

2. Proof of IP protection: Zindua Cafe requires users to disclose whether submissions are protected as patents, trade marks or copyright in addition to providing the registration numbers of any certificates received from WIPO, KIPI and KECOBO. Copies of these certificates must also be submitted by users. This is a really smart way for Safaricom to establish the extent of IP protection involved in all submissions made on the portal. More importantly, Safaricom is in a better position to determine what steps would be necessary to exploit and/or acquire any intellectual property rights in the submissions.

zindua cafe safaricom brewing ideas

3. What’s the big idea?: As part of the submission process, Zindua Cafe requires users to provide a name for the idea/product/service/solution and select the applicable industry from a list including Agriculture, Education, Energy, Entertainment, Financial Services, Health, ICT, Manufacturing, Retail, Transport, among others. This section also requires the users to describe the idea/product/service/solution in 200 characters as well as explaining the need/problem that will be solved by the idea. Finally, users are required to itemise any similar or competing ideas/products/services/solutions already in the market and explain why their submissions are better! This is a really smart way for Safaricom to reduce on the amount of time spent in meetings with people pitching their ideas.

So, what do the users get in return after going through this rigourous 3-step submission process? Nothing. The terms and conditions of use on the portal ensure that Safaricom is fully protected from any claims arising from users and third parties while imposing several obligations on users including indemnity to Safaricom, assurance to Safaricom of IP ownership, among others.

Following the Vodacom “Please Call Me” case in South Africa and the numerous IP infringement cases involving Safaricom here in Kenya, this blogger applauds the move to introduce Zindua Cafe particularly because of the emphasis the portal places on protection of IP by its users prior to submitting their creative and innovative ideas to Safaricom.

What remains to be seen is whether this new portal for brewing ideas will deter future innovators and creators from bringing IP-related suits against Safaricom.

Med Dispenser Loses First Round Against Health Presence: Copyright Ruling in Dedan Maina Warui & another v. Safaricom case

“It could be said that Copyright seeks to protect the author’s actual expression and not the ideas, and it does not therefore forbid independent creation. As such, the claim that the two parties in this suit had an idea on tele-healthcare, but which they expressed differently is not untenable in law.” – Gikonyo J. at page 7.

In a recent ruling by the High Court in the case of Dedan Maina Warui & another v Safaricom Limited [2014] eKLR, a medical doctor was denied a temporary injunction and an order of delivery up with respect to a health-related product launched by Safaricom. A copy of the ruling is available here.

Dr. Dedan Maina Warui claims that Safaricom infringed its copyright in a concept styled under the name “Med Dispenser” which the doctor pitched to the leading mobile network operator’s Enterprise Business Unit on or about March 2011. To prove ownership of the copyright in the concept, the doctor presented a certificate of registration No. CR 000712 dated 8th March, 2011 whereby the Med Dispenser was registered as a Literary Work number KCB 0712 by the Kenya Copyright Board. The literary work in question is a concept paper containing the work flow, methodology or the process in which the med dispenser innovation would work once deduced into a software program.

AAR Safaricom Health Presence October 2012

Safaricom admitted that it did give some initial consideration to the Warui’s proposal, but however made a decision to proceed with a separate proposal which involved a partnership with AAR and Cisco Systems Inc. (Cisco’s system is featured in video featured above) to launch the Tele-health product which was developed without any reference to the Warui’s innovation or ideas. Safaricom claims that the electronic medical prescription concept upon which it’s “Health Presence” product is built, has been in use in other jurisdiction, namely India, since May 2010 and was therefore not an original idea of Warui as claimed.

The learned Gikonyo J. appears to have rendered a fair ruling in this case avoiding the error made by his brother Havelock J. in the case of Faulu Kenya Deposit Taking Microfinance Limited v Safaricom Limited [2012]eKLR where the latter stated that a concept paper does not fall within any of the existing categories of copyright works (See our analysis of Havelock and his ruling here).

In October 2011, a media report published here by our good friends over at CIO East Africa announces that Cisco, Deaf Aid and Safaricom formally piloted the first Cisco HealthPresence clinic in Kenya. The article reads in part:

“This first implementation of Cisco’s HealthPresence solution in Kenya demonstrated how technology can transform the delivery of healthcare to underserved, remote, and rural areas. Bandwidth connectivity was provided by Safaricom, the leading provider of converged communication solutions in Kenya.”

Tele-medicine The Standard October 23 2012

In the same month, Warui claims he saw the above article titled: “Tele-medicine: Treating patients from a distance” published by the Standard newspaper on October 23, 2012. The article reads in part:

“Safaricom Health Presence is a product that will use tele-presence to deliver health services to patients, with the doctor giving instructions to the patients or nurse, on what to do, and what medicine to prescribe. (…) Speaking at the launch of the product, Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore noted that the adoption of tele-medicine would help address the gnawing question of the skewed doctor to patient ratio. He [Collymore] noted: ‘With this technology, all a doctor needs is a computer or a tablet to treat a patient. The product aims at widening reach of quality healthcare in the country’.”

Warui further claims that Safaricom made a business presentation in January 2013 on its “Health Presence Solution” to the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya. In light of these two claims, Warui alleges that these products by Safaricom were based on his work which formed the core of his proposal registered as a literary work with KECOBO.

While the court rightly agrees with Warui that his concept paper was copyrightable, the ruling is cautious to note that from the evidence adduced by Warui, it is not clear which exclusive rights in the Concept Paper Warui is alleging to have been breached by Safaricom. Therefore the court makes the correct judgment call by stating as follows:-

“…In the absence of oral evidence which can be tested by way of cross examination, it would be difficult to ascertain whether the Defendant [Safaricom] has infringed on any intellectual property rights of the Plaintiff [Warui] in the Med Dispenser innovation by introducing the Safaricom Health Care Presence platform in conjunction with Cisco Limited. From the material before the Court, the Plaintiffs did not quite navigate the mix in this matter arising from the circumstances of the case, and thus, did not establish a prima facie case with a probability of success. The upshot is that the application before the court fails. However, the suit should be set down for hearing on a priority basis so that the substantive issues which are of great significance in the field of intellectual property law are resolved once and for all.”