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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Nairobi Java House Rebranding as Trade Mark Appeal Looms in Uganda

No Java Love: Recent advert in Ugandan newspaper, NEW VISION

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.

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Blind Opposition to Caller Ringtone Deal between Safaricom and Collecting Societies: High Court Case of Irene Mutisya & Anor v. MCSK & Anor

Robert Collymore CEO Safaricom

This blogger has recently come across Nairobi High Court Civil Case No. 262 of 2015 Irene Mutisya & Anor v. Music Copyright Society of Kenya & Anor. In this case Mutisya and another copyright owner Masivo have filed suit against Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) and mobile network operator Safaricom Limited for copyright infringement. The copyright owners filed an urgent application on 30th July 2015 for a temporary injunction to restrain Safaricom from remitting license fees to MCSK pursuant to a recently concluded license agreement for caller ring-back tones (CRBT) made available through Safaricom’s Skiza platform. The copyright owners also asked the court to restrain both Safaricom and MCSK from implementing the CRBT License Agreement pending the hearing of the application.

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Legality of Equitable Remuneration Challenged: High Court Petition of Xpedia & 4 Ors v. Attorney General & 4 Ors

equitable remuneration

Editor’s Note: On 31st July 2015, the urgent application in this Petition No.317 of 2015 dated 29th July 2015 was heard and certain interim orders were granted. A copy of the orders is available here.

This blogger has confirmed a recent media report that two content service providers and three copyright owners have jointly filed a petition challenging the constitutionality of the right to equitable remuneration under the now infamous section 30A of the Copyright Act. The Petition was filed against the Attorney General, Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP), Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRiSK) and Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK).

As stated above, the crux of the Petition filed by Xpedia Management Limited, Liberty Afrika Technologies Limited, Elijah Mira, Francis Jumba and Carolyne Ndiba is that KAMP, PRiSK and MCSK should be stopped by the court from receiving or collecting royalties under section 30A of the Copyright Act in respect of works owned or claimed by the Petitioners.

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A Tale of Two Danish Bio-Tech Firms, Protection of Genetic Resources and 2.3 Million Shillings in Royalties for Lake Bogoria Enzyme

Lake Bogoria Bio-Enzyme Royalties Kenya Baringo County 2014

The Baringo County has confirmed recent media reports that residents living around Lake Bogoria in Baringo County have received the sum of KES 2.3 Million in royalties from a Dutch bio-enzyme company. According to Baringo County news, this royalties deal comes after “successful negotiation between the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Novozyme – a foreign company that took an enzyme drawn from a Bacteria in Lake Bogoria hot springs about 15 years ago”. It is reported that the royalties will be partly used as bursaries for over 200 local students while part of the funds will be deployed to fund other development projects in the area. However, local civil society organisations have reportedly demanded full disclosure of all the money from the royalties deal.

This blogpost uses the recent news from Baringo County to examine the protection of genetic resources in Kenya, taking into account Kenya’s new domestic and international rights and obligations in this area.

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L’Oréal Acquires Nice & Lovely Trademark in Multi-Billion Shilling Deal

Media reports (here, here and here) indicate that the world’s largest multinational cosmetics company L’Oréal has acquired Kenya’s Interconsumer Products Ltd’s flagship Nice & Lovely brands, in a multi-million dollar acquisition reported this past week.

L’Oréal opened shop in Nairobi in late 2011 and has for the past 18 months been in talks with Interconsumer Products Ltd for a buyout deal. To facilitate the conclusion of the deal, Interconsumer Products Ltd transferred the beauty division to a new company dubbed Interworld Cosmetics, which has now been acquired by L’Oreal. The French based cosmetics giant has now renamed the new business Interbeauty Products.

This blogger salutes Interconsumer Products Managing Director Mr. Paul Kinuthia. We have all read the story of how Mr. Kinuthia grew his business from a modest sole proprietorship in the late 1990s to a major cosmetics manufacturer in East Africa. This success story of Interconsumer Products Ltd is even more significant and instructive when viewed from an intellectual property (IP) perspective.

The mark NICE and LOVELY was registered in favour of Interconsumer Products Ltd at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) in 2002 but had been in use by Interconsumer since 1999. From this date onwards, Interconsumer has been actively policing its intellectual property rights in the NICE AND LOVELY mark particularly as its products begun to gain prominence not just in Kenya but in neighbouring countries, particularly Uganda.

In 2004, Interconsumer moved to the Commercial Division of Uganda’s Commercial Court to seeking restrain Nice & Soft Investments Ltd., its servants and/or agents and/or distributors from manufacturing, selling or exposing for sale or in any way dealing in cosmetics using the names “Nice & Soft”. This case was reported as Interconsumer Products Ltd V Nice & Soft Investments Ltd (2003) Miscellaneous Application No. 256 Of 2004 (available here and here). In this case Interconsumer alleged, inter alia that the respondents without any form of authority were selling cosmetics goods in Uganda under the mark “Nice & Soft” and had attempted to register a trademark under the said names to the detriment of Interconsumer. Therefore, Interconsumer argued that it’s trademark was in danger of being wasted and irreparably damaged by virtue of such use by the respondent who is selling inferior goods similar to those of Interconsumer. On the question of whether there was trademark infringement, the court noted that the respondent’s application for registration was before the Registrar of Trademarks prior to the filing by Interconsumer of the suit which suit does not aver that it is a challenge to registration. On the question of whether there was passing off, the court found that the Interconsumer pleaded the ingredients of passing off, namely the acquired reputation. The actions taken by Interconsumer to protect its NICE AND LOVELY trademark in Uganda are instructive and must be borne in mind when considering the amount L’Oréal has just paid to acquire this well-known mark.

However before this acquisition deal, many will remember that in Interconsumer had previously locked horns with L’Oréal in both the Ugandan and Kenyan courts over the NICE AND LOVELY trademark. In the Ugandan case reported as L’Oreal and Another vs Interconsumer Products Ltd Application no. 13 of 2006 (available here), L’Oreal moved to the Commercial Division of the High Court to review the decision of the Registrar of Trademarks setting aside opposition proceedings and granting registration of two trademarks, SMOOTH & LOVELY and NICE and LOVELY applied for by Interconsumer.

In the Kenyan case, L’Oréal once more moved to the High Court to challenge the decision of the Registrar of Trademarks in rejecting its opposition of the registration of the mark NICE & LOVELY HERBAL OIL MOISTURIZER by Interconsumer. In a ruling delivered last year on 21st February, the High Court dismissed L’Oréal’s appeal against the decision of the Registrar rejecting L’Oreal’s opposition to the registration of the mark by Interconsumer. The court agreed with the Registrar on several important grounds including that the mark NICE & LOVELY was not similar to DARK AND LOVELY (owned by L’Oréal) and that there could be no confusion as defined under section 14 and 15 of the Trade Marks Act. The Court also agreed with the Registrar’s conclusion that L’Oreal had failed to show that its trademark was well known in Kenya. Furthermore, the Court agreed with the Registrar’s finding that the respondent had used the mark NICE and LOVELY since 1st March 1999 and the appellant had not tendered any evidence to show that it had objected to the use of the mark in the last five years. Therefore, the common law doctrine of honest concurrent use was applicable therefore both NICE & LOVELY and DARK AND LOVELY marks could co-exist in the Trademarks Register. A detailed synopsis of this unreported case is available over at the afroip blog here.

Viewed against the above backdrop, L’Oréal’s acquisition of NICE & LOVELY is an important lesson for trademark owners not only in Kenya but throughout the East African region. Interconsumer’s investment in registration and enforcement of its (IP) rights was a crucial factor in sealing this major buy-out deal.