#ipkenya Weekly Dozen: 03/08

China loves Africa Art by Michael Soi Kenya 2018

  • A Kenyan painter’s art questions China’s deepening reach in Africa [Quartz]
  • Implementing AfCFTA: When and How? [tralac]
  • Draft ICANN Africa Strategic Plan 2016-2020 Version 3.0 [Have Your Say]
  • How to sue a plagiarist – an opinion on the law and plagiarism [Stellenbosch]
  • Interesting end to Crown Hotel-Crowne Plaza Trade Mark Dispute [Addis Fortune]
  • South Africa: Fostering technology innovation [Cape Town]
  • Kenya: What happened to the boy who chased away the lions? [BBC]
  • Zambia: Government urges users to take up ZARRSO licences [IFRRO]
  • Ethiopia: New legislation for plant breeders’ rights [A+ Bunch of Lawyers]
  • African thought leaders on the Berkman Klein list of 2018-2019 Fellows [Harvard]
  • Vacancies: Development, Innovation & IP @ The South Centre [Apply Now]
  • WIPO Indigenous Fellowship Program [Deadline September 21, 2018]

For more news stories and developments, please check out #ipkenya on twitter and feel free to share any other intellectual property-related items that you may come across.

Have a great week-end!

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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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Law Society Publishes Article Plagiarised by Law Professor: Copyright Issues in Wachira Maina v. PLO Lumumba Dispute

cover of the law society of kenya journal volume 11 2015 number 1 lawafrica

This week, constitutional lawyer Wachira Maina took to his facebook page to express his outrage that his work had been plagiarised by a senior lawyer and professor of law, PLO Lumumba. He begins his lengthy post on social media as follows:

“I am aghast. Prof. Lumumba has gone ahead and blatantly plagiarised my April 20th 2013 article on the Presidential Election and re-published it with the grandiloquent title “From Jurisprudence To Poliprudence: The Kenyan Presidential Election Petition, 2013” in the current issue of the Law Society of Kenya Journal.”

In the comments section, Maina discloses that he has already retained legal representation and that his counsel has written to Lumumba over the issue. For intellectual property (IP) enthusiasts, this blogger reckons that if this dispute ends up before the courts, there will be a number of interesting copyright law questions to be addressed.

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Lessons from Nigeria’s Linda Ikeji on Plagiarism, Copyright and DMCA Abuse

Linda Ikeji Blog screenshot

The Linda Ikeji Blog (LIB) commands a great deal of readership and influence in Nigeria with an average of 100 comments per blogpost and over 425,000 followers on twitter. Earlier this month, it was reported that LIB was taken down from the Google-owned “Blogger” platform and later restored by Google. Linda Ikeji disclosed that LIB was taken down following allegations of plagiarism and copyright infringement, presumably under the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). However Google has declined to categorically state why the blog was taken down but generally explained that: “We [Google] take violations of policies very seriously as such activities diminish the experience for our users. When we are notified of the existence of content that may violate our Terms of Service, we act quickly to review it and determine whether it actually violates our policies. If we determine that it does, we remove it immediately.”

This blogpost considers LIB’s recent experience from an intellectual property (IP) perspective and concludes that this case should be an eye-opener to bloggers, especially in Kenya.

Read the rest of this article here.

Reply to CIO East Africa: How to Fact-Check Intellectual Property Articles

Hear-No-Evil-See-No-Evil-Speak-No-Evil

This blogger has come across a recent article by CIO East Africa titled “Weak IP laws hurting aspiring IT billionaires” written by one Alex Owiti. The article, available here, contains several unsubstantiated claims, grave errors of fact and serious misrepresentations of substantive intellectual property law. Through twitter, several attempts were made by the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) and former KIPI CEO Dr. Kibet Mutai to enlighten the poor writer but the latter refused to admit his mistakes.

It is hoped that this blogpost will help our friends at CIO East Africa do a better job of editing all the articles they receive on IP matters. Since we are using Alex Owiti’s article as an example, we will be forced to reproduce it (in italics) in order to highlight the inaccurate statements made in the article. For purposes of this exercise, our comments will be in brackets [] and in bold.

Read the rest of this article here.

KEMRI Ordered to Pay Researchers 30 Million Shillings for Constitutional Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights

KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme KWTRP

In the recent case of Dr. Samson Gwer & 5 others v. Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) & 2 others Petition No. 21 of 2013, the Industrial Court at Nairobi found that KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP) had violated the constitutional rights to intellectual property of six Kenyan research doctors and ordered KEMRI to pay each of the doctors a sum of 5 million shillings as compensation. A copy of the court’s judgment is available here.

After an in-depth review of this case from an intellectual property (IP) perspective, this blogger concludes that this case sets an important precedent for the State’s obligations to protect the right to property under Article 40 of the Constitution of Kenya.

The researchers alleged that the respondents “routinely violated the Petitioners’ right under Article 40(1) of the Constitution by taking away the Petitioners’ right to intellectual property resulting in the Respondents, its servants, employees and students taking credit for the work and scientific innovation of the Petitioners by:

(i) (a) disregard syndrome; (b) Mathew Effect (Discovery credit inadvertently reassigned from the original discoverer for a better known researcher)

(ii) disapproval by the Respondent of the Petitioners and other local scientists innovations or work to apply for grants;

(iii) misappropriation of the work of local scientists to benefit expatriate scientists

(iv) frequent unfair administrative action

(v) Inability to veto adverse decisions by the scientific team leader

(vi) redeployment and chastisement through mail from the Director of KEMRI on the account of raising these grievances.

As a result the Petitioners submitted that the cumulative effect was to forever stifle the progress by Kenyan researchers and to impede their autonomy and dream of Kenyanising scientific innovations.

Therefore the petitioners sought the following reliefs, inter alia, a declaration that the Respondent’s conduct, acts and/or omissions are unlawful, illegal and/or unfair and the same violates Article 40 of the Constitution as well as an order that the Petitioners are entitled to compensation for the above alleged violation of the Constitution.

With regard to allegation (i) on the ‘disregard syndrome’, the petitioners submitted that the most rampant scientific misconduct by the Respondents against the Petitioners was plagiarism, a behaviour the latter termed as ‘citation amnesia’, ‘disregard syndrome’ and ‘bibliographic negligence’ on the part of the Respondents.

In this connection, the Petitioners alleged that the Respondents “arm-twisted the Petitioners to give up their intellectual property rights and cede their passwords to research and innovation” and that “the contracts of employment do not entitle KEMRI to the intellectual property of the Petitioners and the appropriation outlined is unlawful.”

The Respondents flatly denied these allegations arguing that there was not an iota of evidence before the court to substantiate the petitioners’ claims.

In its determination, the learned court noted that whereas KEMRI as an employer is a public institution, the funding under the KEMRI Wellcome Trust Research Programme emaned from external donors. These external donors attached specific terms and conditions to the grant and administration of the Wellcome Trust Research Programme which terms and conditions became subject of grievances by the Petitioners. However the Court found in favour of the Petitioners and stated thus at paragraph 82:

“The 1st Respondent as a state employer is bound by the Constitution to protect the right of the Petitioner and not allow a policy that appropriates their intellectual property as has been ably demonstrated by the Petitioners herein contrary to Article 40(1) of the Constitution.”

Therefore the court ordered that each of the Petitioners is entitled to compensation for the said constitutional violation in the sum of KES 5 Million within thirty days of the judgment date, including interest at Court rates from the judgment date to payment in full. Further the court ordered that the Petitioners are entitled to access all the outcomes of their scientific research and to the credit and benefit attached to the outcomes under Articles 35 and 40 of the Constitution. KEMRI was also ordered to pay the costs of the Petition.

Comments:

From the above, it is submitted that the petitioner’s case for scientific misconduct and denial of intellectual property (IP) rights by KEMRI raises a number of important issues. Furthermore, the learned court’s determination that the petitioner had ably made a case for infringement of the constitutional right to property under Article 40 is quite significant as it reinforces a dangerous precedent set by the Court of Appeal on constitutional enforcement of IP rights.

To begin, the petitioners’ case is problematic as it does not disclose which specific intellectual property rights have been infringed by KEMRI. This case is further complicated by the petitioners’ conflation of plagiarism and alleged IP infringement. As previously discussed by this blogger here and here, copyright infringement may also amount to plagiarism but plagiarism can never amount to copyright infringement. However the petitioners appear to have successfully misled the court to make a finding that KEMRI’s scientific misconduct of plagiarism amounts to infringement of the petitioners’ intellectual property rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

This leads us to consider the impact of the court’s IP-related findings in this case. The present judgment in the Gwer v KEMRI case appears to be in line with the recent Court of Appeal decision in the digital migration case where the majority of the appellate judges found that the alleged infringement of intellectual property rights could be the subject of a constitutional Petition. However as this blogger has argued here, the reasoning by the Court of Appeal on IP (and seemingly adopted in the Gwer case) was flawed.

Therefore on this issue of constitutional enforcement of IP rights, this blogger respectfully submits that the earlier decisions by the learned Majanja J. in the High Court cases of Sanitam Services (EA) Ltd v Tamia Ltd Petition No. 305 of 2012 and Royal Media Services Ltd & 2 others v Attorney General & 8 others [2013] appear to be more cogent and correct in law compared with the findings in the present judgment and that of Court of Appeal in the digital migration case.

As a parting shot, this blogger notes that one unintended consequence of this emerging jurisprudence of constitutional enforcement of IP rights particularly in the employment context is that ex-employees such as Samson Ngengi (See our analysis of Ngengi v. KRA here) have an added avenue to obtain damages and compensation from public sector ex-employers in IP-related disputes. This blogger is informed that arbitration proceedings in the Ngengi’s case are still on-going.