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  eKLR. In order to discern the likely grounds of appeal, it is important to consider this recent judgment made by the High Court.
In a recent media report here, the Commercial Court of Nyarugenge in Rwanda has ruled that it will not proceed with a case filed by Innscor International accusing two local companies Chicken Inn Limited and Pizza Inn Limited of trademark infringement in Rwanda. The basis of this ruling was reportedly that Innscor had not demonstrated to the court that it had “legal status according to the law governing registered entities in Rwanda”. Technicalities aside, it is clear that once Innscor produces its certificate of incorporation in court, this case would proceed to consider the merits of Innscor’s claim (as illustrated by the picture above), namely that registration of a name as a company name by entity A should not trump any rights in such a name acquired previously by entity B through trade mark law.
In a judgment delivered yesterday (February 9th 2016), the High Court of Uganda in Civil Appeal No 13 of 2015 has set aside the decision of the Registrar of Trade Marks at Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB). Mr. Justice Madrama Izama allowed the appeal by Nairobi Java House Limited with costs and found that the two marks from Kenya and Uganda in question are capable of concurrent usage.
Readers will recall that in an earlier post here, we confirmed that Nairobi Java House had filed an appeal against the decision of the Registrar in relation to trade mark opposition proceedings filed by Mandela Auto Spares Limited. The proceedings were against the registration of trade mark application numbers 48062/2013 “Java House” and “Java Sun” and 48063/2013 “Nairobi Java House” in the name of Nairobi Java House. The Registrar in his ruling upheld the objection of Mandela Auto Spares Limited and found that the proposed registration of Nairobi Java House’s trade marks would lead to confusion in the marketplace.
In an earlier post here, this blogger reported that Kenya finally enacted a new and comprehensive company law legislation. The Companies Act 2015 contains an express provision on prohibited names which states that the Registrar of Companies has the discretion not to register a company if the name applied for reservation is offensive or undesirable.
The Act states that the criteria to be used by the Registrar to determine whether a particular name is offensive or undesirable shall be prescribed by the regulations. This blogger is now pleased to report that the regulations in question have been published in the Kenya Gazette. From an intellectual property (IP) perspective, it is notable that the regulations contain a provision intended to provide greater certainty in situations where a company is registered using a name that is identical to a registered trade mark belonging to a third party.
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.
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.
As readers may know, a government taskforce had earlier recommended the merger of the three intellectual property (IP) offices dealing with copyright, industrial property and anti-counterfeit matters. The implementation of these recommendations appears to have stalled with no progress made to-date. In addition to the IP offices, there is also the matter of the various IP dispute resolution bodies created under the various IP laws: the Industrial Property Act establishes the Industrial Property Tribunal, the Copyright Act establishes the Competent Authority (akin to a Copyright Tribunal), the Anti-Counterfeit Act establishes the Anti-Counterfeit Agency and the Seeds and Plant Varieties Act establishes the Seeds and Plant Tribunal.
Recently, the Judiciary Working Committee on Transition and Restructuring of Tribunals developed a Draft Tribunal Bill 2015 to help domicile all tribunals under the Judiciary. This is an important step that could benefit IP owners and users in the quick and expert settlement of various IP-related disputes.