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.
The most recent edition of Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) newsletter (cover pictured above) focuses on photography and image rights. A copy of the full Issue 18 is available here.
In the lead article starting on page 4 by KECOBO Executive Director, a compelling case is made in favour of specific legal protection of image rights, particularly in the case of celebrities. The article uses the oft-cited case of Dennis Oliech v. EABL (previously discussed here) to illustrate the limitations of existing intellectual property (IP) regimes in cases of commercial appropriation of one’s personality and/or image.
The article reads in part as follows:
“The use of images and personality rights is gaining currency and there is need to ensure that the same is well regulated and third parties do not take undue advantage of the commercialisation of the same. Guernsey provides a good example and maybe we should follow suit.”
This view from the Copyright Office begs the question: will Kenya be better off with a specific law on image rights like Guernsey? This blogger argues that the answer must be “No”.
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 recently come across the reported case of Harleys Limited v Ripples Pharmaceuticlas Limited & another  eKLR. Vitabiotics Limited, a UK-based drug manufacturing company had previously engaged Ripples Pharmaceutical Limited and Metro Pharmaceuticals Limited to import, distribute and sell their products in Kenya. Thereafter, Harleys Limited became Vitabiotics exclusive distributor in Kenya. Harleys then went to court and obtained temporary orders blocking Ripples and Metro from importing, packaging, selling as well as distributing products bearing a trademark similar or confusingly similar in get-up to the trademarks owned by Vitabiotics.
The court’s ruling was focused on two main issues namely; (1) Whether or not the Harleys had legal standing/locus standi to institute the proceedings? and (2) If so, was Harleys entitled to the orders it had sought in its application?
This blogger has come across a recent judgment from Uganda’s Commercial Court in Muse Af Enterprises Co. Ltd Vs Billen General Trading Ltd & 2 Ors  UGCOMMC 88. In this case, Muse filed an application for registration of the PANASUPER trademark in Uganda on 3rd August 2006 but the application was opposed by Matsushita Electronic Industrial Co. Ltd of Japan, the registered proprietors of Trademarks No. 25731 and 28536 PANASONIC. Since the registration of the trademark had been opposed, Muse requested a power of attorney from Linyi Huatai. The PANASUPER trademark was subsequently registered after URSB delivered a ruling disposing of the opposition of the trademark.
Later, Muse filed suit against Linyi Huatai and their local agent Billen for trademark infringement. However Linyi Huatai claimed that Muse had fraudulently registered the PANASUPER trademark in its own name. Linyi Huatai asked the court to cancel the registration of PANASUPER and claimed damages from Muse.
“In the circumstances of this case accordingly, it is difficult to understand how the Registrar of Trade Marks whether under Section 14 or 15 of the Act, arrived at his conclusions. The marks are clearly phonetically and visually different and are not similar or identical. The goods are by colour, shape and size different. The goods are by constitution not identical or similar. The likelihood of the goods being dealt with by the usual public is meagre. The possibility of a confusion arising therefore is also meagre.” – Onyancha, J on 25th day of May, 2015.
This blogger has recently come across the judgment in the case of Pharmaken Limited v Laboratories Almirall S.A  eKLR. A copy of the judgment is available here.
The background of this case is as follows: Pharmaken applied for registration of the trade mark “ZYRTAL MR” in class 5 for human medicine. The application was examined and later approved for advertisement. Almirall filed a notice of opposition to the registration of the mark. Almirall stated that it owns the trade mark number 39575 “AIRTAL” in class 5 which has become well known to the Kenya public. Almirall further alleged that the said application resembles their trade mark “AIRTAL” visually and phonetically and that confusion would arise in the mind of the public.