High Court Declares Section 30A of the Copyright Act Unconstitutional and CMO License Agreement Unlawful

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This blogger has come across a recent judgment in the case of Mercy Munee Kingoo & Anor v. Safaricom Limited & Anor [unreported] Malindi High Court Constitutional Petition No. 5 of 2016 delivered by Mr. Justice S.J Chitembwe on 3rd November 2016. At the heart of this Petition was the claim that section 30A of the Copyright Act is unconstitutional. This Petition raised two important issues for determination: firstly, whether the petition is ‘res judicata’ in light of two earlier decided High Court Petitions (discussed previously here and here) in which section 30A was not found to be unconstitutional and secondly, whether the amendment of the Copyright Act and introduction of section 30A is unconstitutional for failure to observe the principles of public participation.

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Copyright Dispute over Safaricom’s “BLAZE” Campaign: Transcend Media Granted Anton Pillers Against Saracen Media

court order transcend saracen blaze kenya safaricom copyright case 2016

“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).

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High Court Judgment on Caller Ringback Tones, Definition of Public Performance and Regulation of Collecting Societies

IMG-20151023-WA0023 edaily dot co dot ke

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.

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How A Typo Cost Safaricom the “OKOA STIMA” Trade Mark in Favour of Colour Planet

okoa stima safaricom colour planet trademark case

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.

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High Court Upholds Freeze of Collecting Society’s Bank Accounts: Ruling in MCSK v Chief Magistrate, Inspector General

Music-Copyright-Society-of-Kenya-MCSK-CEO-Maurice-Okoth People Daily

This blogger has recently come across an astute ruling by the High Court in the case of Music Copyright Society of Kenya v Chief Magistrate’s Court & Inspector General of Police [2015] eKLR. Justice L. Kimaru sitting in the High Court was approached by the authors’ collecting society, Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) to stay orders issued by the Magistrate’s Court freezing all the bank accounts of MCSK following a request by the Serious Crimes Unit under the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). DCI requested that MCSK’s accounts be frozen as it investigates complaints made by MCSK members in regard to alleged misappropriation and theft of funds at the collecting society.

After carefully evaluating the facts before him, Kimaru J ruled that the investigations were lawful and based on several complaints received by DCI from MCSK members and that the orders to freeze MCSK’s accounts were within the precincts of the law.

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Test Case on Liability for Online Copyright Infringement: Music Industry Players Sue ISPs, Telcos and Government

sauti sol sura yako

This blogger has recently come across the case of Bernsoft Interactive & 2 Ors v. Communications Authority of Kenya & 9 Ors Petition No. 600 of 2014, a recently filed constitutional petition seeking injunctive orders to compel internet service providers (ISPs) in Kenya to block websites engaged in piracy and declaratory orders that the State has failed in its constitutional and legal obligations to protect the intellectual property rights of Kenyans. The state organs that are targetted in this Petition including the telecommunications regulator, Communications Authority of Kenya; the copyright office, Kenya Copyright Board and the principal legal advisor to the Government, the Office of the Attorney General. A copy of the petition is available in .pdf here.

The major ISPs (in terms of the number of subscribers in Kenya) have all been enjoined in the suit including: Safaricom, Airtel, Jamii Telecom, Wananchi Group, Access Kenya, Liquid Telecom and Telkom Kenya.

The petitioners cite the infamous site: http://www.wapkid.com which allows users to illegally download sound recordings and audio-visual works online. The ISPs are accused of allowing its subscribers to use its internet networks to illegally acquire copyright works through sites such as wapkid. In this connection, it is alleged that the ISPs allow the transmission in digital form, these copyright protected music through their networks and into, and out of, the personal computers, phones and various gadgets that are used for online copyright piracy.

wapkid sauti sol

To illustrate its claims, the Petition submits into evidence the above screenshot of a Wapkid page linking to the location where one of the Petitioner’s members, Sauti Sol’s musical work known as “Sura Yako” is hosted. Through the “premium” or “free” options on the wapkid site, the user can download the unauthorized copy of Sauti Sol’s audiovisual work to his/her computer or phone or tablet for unlimited viewing or further distribution.

The matter came up for hearing before High Court Justice Lenaola earlier this month.

This blogger commends the petitioners for their efforts and will be closely following the developments in this case.

2013 Year in Review: Intellectual Property in Kenya

2013 was an election year for Kenya which resulted in the swearing in of Uhuru Kenyatta as the fourth President of the Republic. Kenyatta has been very supportive of the creative economy and has on several occasions reiterated his administration’s commitment to creating a conducive environment for creators to reap from their intellectual property (IP) assets. However, Kenyatta’s mark on IP this year was the decision to reform all state corporations and parastatals in Kenya which has set in motion plans to merge the copyright office, the industrial property office and the anti-counterfeit agency into one national IP office.

Copyright and Related Rights

In 2013, copyright news was monopolized by Safaricom which was embroiled with two high profile copyright cases with Faulu Kenya and JB Maina. Another popular copyright story was Longhorn’s acquisition of publishing rights for iconic educational textbooks writer, Malkiat Singh.

The year was also memorable for Kenya as she successfully negotiated and signed the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are BIlind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.

Industrial Property

In 2013, trade marks stole the show with several far reaching rulings by the Registrar of Trademarks as well as the landmark acquisition of a local trademark by a multinational cosmetics company. In addition, trademark administration has continued to be the major revenue earner for the national IP office, Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) especially through the Madrid System.

The Red Bull case (available online) was an important decision in that it expanded the Kenyan IP jurisprudence in respect of the doctrines of “conceptual similarity” and “well-known marks”.

In the Basmati case, a clear distinction was drawn between trade marks and geographical indications within the context of Kenya’s international obligations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of IP (TRIPs) adopted in section 40A of the Kenya Trademarks Act.

In the Pyrex case (available online), the Registrar found that the withdrawal of a threat of opposition does not amount to a surrender of your rights to institute cancellation proceedings in respect of the same trade mark. This ruling was important because it provides a practical application of two amended provisions of the Act, namely Section 36A and 36B of the Act.

Later in the year, one of the largest cosmetics companies in the world, L’Oréal fully acquired the health and beauty divisions of local firm, Interconsumer Products Ltd, makers of Nice & Lovely brands, in a multi-billion shilling transaction. This acquisition is seen as part of L’Oreal’s push to dominate the East Africa’s low-end cosmetic market.

Legislative Developments

As previously discussed here, several amendments have been proposed to the Copyright and the Anti Counterfeit Acts in the Statute Law Miscellaneous Bill currently before Parliament is passed. Earlier this year, a proposed draft law on the protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions was validated.

This year saw the enactment of the Science, Technology and Innovation Act, Consumer Protection Act, Media Council of Kenya Act and Kenya Information and Communication Amendment Act, all of which will affect IP administration and enforcement both directly and indirectly.

For more stories from 2013, check out the IPKenya archive on the right hand side of this page and information from other sites on our twitter feed.

See you all in 2014!