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 recently reported ruling in the case of City Clock Limited v Country Clock Kenya Limited & another  eKLR, the plaintiff sought injunctive orders against the defendants barring them from conducting advertising business on the clocks units using the name “Country Clock”, which was similar to the registered trade mark “City Clock”, which it was contended, were confusingly and deceptively similar in set-up, get-up and appearance to the Plaintiff’s clock units.
According to the Plaintiff, the main issue in its application for interim orders was that the Defendants have been using a name that is so similar to that used by the Applicant for over thirty (30) years, which similarity in name, it averred, is phonetically similar to the pronunciation of the Applicant’s trademark of “City Clock”.
Recently, Kenya Law reported the case of Clips Limited v Brands Imports (Africa) Limited formerly named Brand Imports Limited  eKLR which involved three disputed trade marks: ATLAS, FANTASTIC and ALPHA registered in class 16 in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Kuwait by Clips Kenya’s parent company, Hoshan. From 2010 to-date, Clips Kenya has been trading in goods bearing Hoshan’s marks under a Royalty Agreement in existence from 2009. However, in 2013, Brands Imports registered all three disputed marks in Kenya which led to Hoshan commencing expungement proceedings before the Registrar of Trade Marks.
In the intervening period, Brands Imports, the registered proprietor of the disputed marks in Kenya, wrote a letter to Clips Kenya demanding a 5% payment of royalty. In the letter, Brands Imports threatened to lodge complaints with government authorities to prevent Clips Kenya from continuing to import and sell in Kenya the goods bearing the disputed marks. According to Clips Kenya, Brands Imports’ actions amount to unlawful interference of it’s business and that it could rely on the ‘prior use defence’ provided in section 10 of the Kenya Trade Marks Act.
Where to begin?
Section 6(a) of the Copyright Act states that the Board of Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) shall consist of “a chairman, who shall be appointed by the Minister from amongst the members of registered copyright societies”. The Copyright Act as read with the Interpretation and General Provisions Act defines “Minister” as the Attorney-General who is “the Minister for the time being responsible for matters relating to copyright and related rights.” Under Article 156(4)(a) of the Constitution of Kenya states that the Attorney-General is the “principal legal adviser to the Government” which presumes that the A-G, in the case of public appointments, would have been consulted on their legality or lack thereof especially where those appointments touch on the A-G’s own docket!
Recent media reports indicate that Sony Corporation has filed an appeal in the High Court against the decision of the Registrar of Trade Marks at Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) allowing the registration of two trade marks namely “SONY HOLDINGS” (WORDS AND DEVICE) and “SONY HOLDINGS” (WORDS).
Given the high likelihood that the High Court may defer to the expert determination of the Trade Mark Registrar, this blogpost considers the ruling made by the Registrar in the opposition proceedings with the costs totaling about Kshs 1,252,400.00 awarded to Sony Holdings.
“The appellant cannot have been credited for singing and performing well, as a choir. He was not the choir. He was the Director, the Conductor or the Instructor. Therefore, when the prowess of the Appellant was recognised for the tasks he had excelled in, that did not, and could not transfer to the Appellant, the intellectual property which vested in the choir.” – Mr. Justice Fred A. Ochieng, Misc. Cause No. 193/2015 Joseph Muyale Inzai v Henry Wanjala, Sylvester Matete Makobi, Cliff Njora Njuguna,Masambaya Fredrick Ndukwe And Geoffrey Sauke Together T/A Kenya Boys Choir & another 
In a recent judgment, the High Court has upheld the ruling of the Registrar of Trade Marks to expunge Trade Mark No. KE/T/2010/67586 “KENYA BOYS CHOIR” (WORDS) in Classes 16 and 41 in the name of Joseph Muyale Inzai. From previous posts here and here, readers will recall that members of Kenyan Boys Choir filed an application with the Registrar for expungement of the mark claiming that they were aggrieved by its entry in the Register for various reasons. The Registrar ruled in favour of the Choir members and 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. Inzai felt aggrieved by the Registrar’s ruling and moved to the High Court on an appeal. This blogpost is in relation to the High Court judgment in that appeal.
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.