Endless wrangles in Kenya’s collective management system have made us all experts in copyright law. The thorny question of how and to what extent key players in the collective administration of copyright and related rights must comply with the Constitution remains a hotly debated topic. This brings us to a recent judgment by the High Court in the case of Laban Toto Juma & 4 Others v. Kenya Copyright Board & 2 Others Consolidated Kakamega Petition No. 3B of 2017 delivered on 13 July 2018. A copy of this High Court judgment is available here. Not surprisingly, both sides in this see-saw legal battle are claiming victory following the court’s final verdict. So, this blogpost will attempt to examine the key issues tackled by the court in its judgment as well as some of the questions that have been left unanswered.
In Kenya’s cut-throat hair business, three competitors (the purveyors of hair extensions branded ‘Darling’, ‘Angels Hair’ and ‘Sistar’ respectively) have distinguished themselves through aggressive marketing and strategic litigation over their brands. In a previous blogpost here, we highlighted an interesting High Court case where the Sistar hair maker filed a trade mark infringement suit against both its rivals, Style Industries (of the ‘Darling’ fame) and Sana Industries, known for ‘Angels Hair’.
In this latest installment, we focus on the recently reported High Court ruling in Style Industries Limited v Sana Industries Co. Limited  eKLR in which the Plaintiff (Style) was partially successful in its application for both injunctive relief and Anton Piller orders against the Defendant (Sana) for infringement of its ‘VIP COLLECTION’ trade mark.
The recently reported High Court case of Evans Gikunda v. Patrick Quarcoo & Two Others  was born out of a business deal gone bad. At the heart of this dispute is a music application (app) that the plaintiff (Gikunda) claims to have conceptualised, designed and developed between 2012 and 2016. However Gikunda joined the employ of the 2nd Defendant (Radio Africa Group Limited) in 2013 where the 1st Defendant (Quarcoo), the Chief Executive at Radio Africa, ‘persuaded Gikunda to partner with him to ensure that the product gets to market’.
According to Gikunda, Quarcoo proposed that that once Radio Africa’s Board of Directors sanctioned its participation in his app, they would share out the ownership of the app as follows: Radio Africa – 40%; Gikunda- 30%; Quarcoo- 20%; and the remaining 10% to a strategic partner. However, in mid-2016, Gikunda resigned from Radio Africa after which he alleges that Quarcoo and Radio Africa sold the app, without his knowledge, to the 3rd Defendant (Safaricom).
In the recent High Court case of ABSA Kenya Limited v Barclays Bank of Kenya  eKLR, a Kenyan company has failed to temporarily halt the proposed name change of Barclays Bank to Absa. ABSA Kenya claimed that it had received cancellation of lucrative transactions due to confusion created by the planned rebranding by Barclays Bank. However the learned judge in this case dismissed the plaintiff’s application for interim injunction to ‘restrain Barclays from using, representing, infringing, advertising or in any manner whatever the trade mark and the name ABSA or its derivatives, deductives, corollaries devices and/or anxilliaries in Kenya or in any other place or at all.’
Maurice Okoth, former MCSK CEO (left) with his lawyer at the High Court for the delivery of the judgment.
Recently, the High Court delivered its judgment in the case of Republic v. The Director of Public Prosecutions and 4 Others Ex Parte Shamilla Kiptoo and 2 Others HCMA 510 of 2015 (Consolidated) in which the court granted the orders of certiorari and prohibition sought by the Applicants namely Maurice Okoth, Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), James Maweu Mutisya, former MCSK Board Director, Lillian Njoki Thuo, MCSK Management Accountant, Peter Kisala Enyenze, MCSK Regional Manager and Shamilla Kiptoo, Nasratech Limited Managing Director (and Okoth’s wife).
The order of Certiorari granted by the court quashes the decision, declaration and directive of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID), Inspector General of Police (IG), Chief Magistrate’s Court and the Attorney General (collectively referred to as the Respondents) to prefer criminal charges against the Applicants based on the facts contained in the Charge Sheet dated 18th November 2015 in Criminal Case No. 1904 of 2015 – Republic v. Dan Maurice Mwande Okoth & 6 others. The order of Prohibition granted by the court directed to the Respondents prohibits the prosecution of the Applicants based on the facts contained in the Charge Sheet dated 18th November 2015 in Criminal Case No. 1904 of 2015 – Republic versus Dan Maurice Mwande Okoth & 6 others. Finally, the court ordered the costs of the application to be borne by the DPP, CID and IG.
“I am acutely aware of the far reaching consequences of my conclusive finding that purely constitutional issues and questions have been borne out of a hitherto commercial relationship and hence the court’s jurisdiction rather than agreed mode of dispute resolution. I however do not for a moment view it that the framers of our Constitution intended the rights and obligations defined in our common law, in this regard, the right to freedom of contract, to be the only ones to continue to govern interpersonal relationships.” – Onguto, J at paragraph 101 of the ruling.
A recent well-reasoned ruling by the High Court in the case of Bia Tosha Distributors Limited v Kenya Breweries Limited & 3 others  eKLR tackled the complex question of horizontal application of the Constitution to private commercial disputes governed by contracts with private dispute resolution mechanisms. More interestingly, the court had to consider whether the amount of Kshs. 33,930,000/= paid by the Petitioner to acquire a ‘goodwill’ over certain distribution routes or areas of the Respondents’ products can be defined as ‘property’ held by the Petitioner and as such protected under Article 40 of the Constitution.
How to spot ‘fake’ Timberland shoes 101
Following the high profile raid and seizure of a ‘fake’ shoes shop in Nakuru (see video footage here), the court has delivered a recent judgment in the case of Paul Kihara Nduba t/a Shikanisha Shoes Collection v Attorney General & another  eKLR in which the owner of the Nakuru shoes shop challenged the enforcement actions taken by the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA). The Petitioner sought several declaratory orders from the court to the effect that Section 23 (c) of the Anti-Counterfeit Act No. 13 of 2008 is unconstitutional and inconsistent with Articles 23 (2), 25 (c) and 31 (a) of the Constitution of Kenya and that ACA acted in excess of and in violation of Section 31 (a) and (b) of the Constitution.
In determining this petition, the court addressed the following issues: 1) Whether this petition is competent; 2) Whether the seizure of the Petitioner’s goods by ACA was lawful; and 3) Whether the Petitioner is entitled to the orders sought in the petition.
“We wish to underscore the importance of fostering creativity through respect and protection of intellectual property rights of others. A nation cannot be built on disregard for originality and promotion of copy cats.” – Excerpt from a press statement by Transcend Media Group.
This blogger has come across the recent case of Transcend Media Group Limited v. Saracen Media Limited & 2 Ors Civil Case No. 3644 of 2016 in which Senior Magistrate E.K Usui has granted temporary injunctive orders sought by Transcend, the applicant against Saracen and the two other respondents. The court granted Anton Piller orders allowing Transcend to enter the premises of the respondents to preserve, seize, collect and keep machines, data, documents and storage material relating to Transcend’s copyright work under the supervision of Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) officers. In addition, the respondents have been restrained by the court from any further infringement, alienation, distribution and storage of Transcend’s copyright work pending hearing of the suit.
According to a Business Daily report here, the genesis of this copyright dispute is a Sh208 million tender by Safaricom seeking to procure the services of an advertising agency to handle the mobile network operator’s youth segment brand communication which is now called BLAZE. Transcend submitted its strategy proposal and creative body of works to Safaricom but lost the bid to Saracen. Transcend alleges that Safaricom awarded the business to Saracen and a Company (Fieldstone Helms Limited) owned by former Transcend staff who were involved in Transcend’s bid including the team leader. As a result, Transcend claims that Fieldstone Helms is now “illegally implementing” Transcend’s intellectual property (IP).
Previously we reported here that several members of Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) had filed a case in the Commercial Division of the High Court challenging a license pertaining to the caller ringback tones (CRBT) service known as “Skiza Tunes” owned by mobile network operator, Safaricom issued by the three music collective management organisations (CMOs) including MCSK.
While the outcome of this commercial suit is still pending, we have come across a recently delivered judgment in the case of Petition No. 350 of 2015 David Kasika & 4 Ors v. Music Copyright Society of Kenya in which several MCSK members alleged that the collection of royalties by MCSK under the CRBT license agreement in question violates their constitutional rights, that the making available of works for download on Safaricom’s CRBT service amounts to a private performance as such section 30A of the Copyright Act does not apply and thus the CMOs cannot collect royalties on behalf of its members as required under the section. Finally, the petition invited the court to weigh in on several damning allegations made regarding mismanagement by MCSK in its collection and distribution of members’ royalties.
This blogger has come across a recent ruling in the case of Africa Management Communication International Limited v Joseph Mathenge Mugo & another  eKLR. In this case, the court declined to find the defendants (which included 2 ex-employees of the plaintiff) in contempt of court orders made preventing them from passing off and carrying themselves as a sister or associate company of the plaintiff (a former employer of the defendants). In addition the plaintiff sought to have the ex-employees committed in prison for three months for violating orders restraining one of the ex-employees from being a director in the 2nd defendant company for a stipulated period of 18 months.
This blogpost examines this case which illustrates the importance of ensuring that employers take proactive steps to secure all their intellectual property (IP) assets against employees no longer in employment and that such former employees are reasonably restrained by contract from trading using the IP assets of the former employer.