Kenya Copyright Board Bruised in IP Fight over ‘My Skool’ TV Show

MY SKOOL TV SHOW copyright registration KECOBO Kenya

Presently the Copyright Register (pictured above) shows that the same audiovisual work called “MY SKOOL TV SHOW” has two separate owners who registered it almost a year apart. In a recent High Court judgment in the case of Republic v Executive Director, Kenya Copyright Board & another Ex-Parte Sugarcane Communications Ltd [2018] eKLR, the court quashed a decision by Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) to cancel the copyright registration of “MY SKOOL TV SHOW” by the ex parte Applicant (Sugarcane Communications Limited). This judgment is perhaps a wake-up call for KECOBO which, unlike the Registrar of Trade Marks at Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), is not accustomed to having its decisions regarding registration of intellectual property (IP) rights challenged by courts of law.

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Collecting Societies Demand Whopping 170 Million Shillings from Leading Broadcasters in Copyright Infringement Suits

KECOBO Renews Registration of KAMP and PRiSK as CMOs. L-R: Justus Ngemu - KAMP Chairman, Clifford Wefwafwa - KAMP GM, Marisella Ouma - KECOBO ED, Angela Ndambuki - PRiSK CEO, Robert Kimanzi - PRiSK Chairman.

KECOBO Renews Registration of KAMP and PRiSK as CMOs. L-R: Justus Ngemu – KAMP Chairman, Clifford Wefwafwa – KAMP GM, Marisella Ouma – KECOBO ED, Angela Ndambuki – PRiSK CEO, Robert Kimanzi – PRiSK Chairman.

This blogger has confirmed a recent media report that the two related rights collecting societies: Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) and Performers’ Rights Society of Kenya (PRiSK) have simultaneously taken five broadcasting organisations to court for infringement of copyright. The five identical suits HCCC No. 322, 323, 324, 325 & 326 of 2015 have been filed in the Commercial Division of the High Court against Royal Media Services (RMS), Nation Media Group (NMG), Standard Group (SG), MediaMax Network (MMN) and national broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).

PRiSK and KAMP claim that they are mandated to collect license fees on behalf of the performers and producers of sound recordings and duly notified the five broadcasters that it is under an obligation under Sections 27, 30A, 35(1)(a), 25 and 38(2) and 38(7) of the Copyright Act to pay licensing fees in respect of sound recordings and audio-visual works broadcast to the public. In this regard, the collecting societies claim that the broadcasters have all failed and/or neglected to pay the requisite license fees to KAMP and PRiSK from the year 2010 until and up to the year 2014.

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Establishing Copyright Infringement: High Court Ruling in Nonny Gathoni v. Samantha’s Bridal Wedding Show Case

This blogger has come across a recent ruling by the High Court in Nonny Gathoni Njenga & anor v. Catherine Masitsa & 2 ors Civil Case No. 490 of 2013. In this case, the plaintiffs (Nonny Gathoni and Jane Odewale) applied to the High Court for orders of temporary injunction restraining the Defendants (Catherine Masitsa, Standard Group Ltd and Bauhaus Ltd) from infringing in any way on the plaintiff’s rights under copyright in the literary work registered as “Weddings with Nonny Gathoni” and later televised as “The Baileys Wedding Show with Noni Gathoni”. In particular, the plaintiff sought to have the court restrain the defendants from reproducing, adapting, communicating to the public or broadcasting the whole work or a substantial part thereof either in its original form or in any form recognisably derived from the original literary work.

A copy of the ruling is available here.

According to the learned High Court Judge Ogolla J the main issue for determination is whether the Defendants have infringed on the Plaintiffs’ literary work (as registered at KECOBO and evidenced by a Certificate of Registration issued by KECOBO and presented in court). The learned judge rightly singles out the core contention of the plaintiffs which is that although both parties had their own wedding show, the defendants changed the previous running order of their show by allegedly copying the running order expressed by the plaintiffs in the literary work “Weddings with Noni Gathoni”. The court ultimately finds in favour of the plaintiffs and allowed the orders sought for temporary injunction.

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Digital Migration Case: Flawed Reasoning by Court of Appeal on Intellectual Property Issues

Signet Kenya Limited, Star Times Media Limited, Pan Africa Network Group Kenya Limited and GOTV Kenya Limited are hereby prohibited from broadcasting any content from Royal Media Services Limited, Nation Media Group Limited and Standard Group Limited without their consent, pending the hearing and determination of the intended appeal. – Ojwang & Wanjala, SCJJ in Communications Commission of Kenya v Royal Media Services Limited & 10 others [2014] eKLR.

There’s an interesting saying about intellectual property (IP) adjudication in Kenya which states that: “most of the time, the outcome may be right but the reasoning is often wrong.” The recent decision by a three-judge bench of the Court of Appeal in the case of Royal Media Services Limited & 2 others v Attorney General & 8 others [2014] eKLR (digital migration case) is a clear illustration of the above saying. Although the matter is currently on appeal before the Supreme Court, this blogpost intends to analyse the reasoning of the Court of Appeal’s majority and minoirty judgments in this matter.

Two out of the three appellate judges (Nambuye and Maraga JJA) set aside the judgment of Majanja, J in the High Court (discussed by this blogger here) and made two IP-related findings in their separate but concurring judgments, namely:-

1. THAT the learned Judge erred in law in holding the Appellants’ intellectual property rights were not violated by the Respondents in broadcasting the Appellants’ programs and content without their consent.

2. THAT the learned Judge erred in law in holding that infringement of intellectual property rights could not be the subject of a constitutional Petition.

It is this blogger’s considered opinion that the above majority view of the Court of Appeal is fundamentally flawed as the Court of Appeal (curiously) arrives at two determinations on IP issues without any reference to any IP legislation.

For instance, the learned appellate judge Nambuye JA at paragraph 91 states that: “I do appreciate that the content both developed and acquired from 3rd parties fits the definition of intellectual property”. To support her position, the judge cites the definition of “property” under the Interpretation and General Provisions Act Cap 2 Laws of Kenya and Article 260 of the Constitution of Kenya.

It is trite that neither Cap 2 nor the Constitution contain a definition of “intellectual property”. The definition of intellectual property depends on the specific subject-matter and the correlated rights which are contained in various pieces of legislation.

In similar fashion, Maraga JA at paragraph 64 states that: “to allow any broadcaster to air FTA programmes of others without their consent amounts to infringement on the IPRs of the owners of those programmes.” However the learned appellate judge does not define and explain which specific intellectual property subject matter and/or specific right(s) in that subject-matter have been violated. In addition, Maraga JA does not set out any accepted test under intellectual property law for infringement.

Despite the Court of Appeal’s flawed reasoning as illustrated above, the outcome of the case is right on the issue of IP infringement. From an intellectual property perspective, all broadcasts are recognised as a category of copyright works under section 22(1). Therefore broadcasters are recognised as holders of neighbouring/related rights under copyright law, like producers and performers. Broadcasters have the right to authorize or prohibit the following acts as defined in the Copyright Act:
(a) Rebroadcasting of their broadcasts
(b) Fixation of their broadcasts;
(c) Reproduction of such fixations;
(d) Communication to the public of their television broadcasts if such communication is made in places accessible to the public against payment of an entrance fee

Section 35(1) provides that if any of the above acts are done by any person without the authority of the broadcaster, the latter’s rights under copyright are infringed. Subsection 4 of this section provides that infringement is actionable at the suit of the rights holder (assignee or exclusive licensee as the case may be) and the latter may be entitled to a wide array of reliefs including damages, injunction, accounts, delivery up, reasonable royalty, among others.
For this reason alone, this blogger agrees with Majanja J’s reasoning in the High Court that IP infringement claims cannot be the subject of a constitutional petition.

This blogger will continue to keenly monitor and update readers on the developments in this matter as it is heard by the Supreme Court.

Television Wars and Intellectual Property Protection: CFC Stanbic Magnate Show and Samantha’s Bridal Show

Kenya has had two High Court rulings in two separate cases in the space of two weeks, both dealing with copyright infringement in television shows. In this blogpost, these rulings will be analysed bearing in mind that both these cases are still on-going.

In the case of Oracle Productions Limited v Decapture Limited & 3 others [2014] eKLR (the Magnate case), Oracle claimed Decapture and others have infringed the latter’s copyright in its reality game show. Oracle is the copyright owner of a literary work describing a reality game show styled “Young Entrepreneurs” and registered with the Kenya Copyright Board as KCB 0831. Decapture is the copyright owner of a literary work describing a reality game show titled “The CFC Stanbic Bank Magnate” (the Magnate show) and registered with the Kenya Copyright Board.

Read the full article here.

Trade mark tussle over Standard Group ‘Eve Sisters’ name

The January issue of The Nairobi Law Monthly reports “Standard wins ‘sisters’ name row” which pertains to the recent ‘trade mark infringement dispute’ filed by Creative Force Events MD Ann Njeri Mungai Kihiu against The Standard Group Ltd and Associate Editor, Ms. Njoki Karuoya.

The background to this trade mark dispute is simply boils down to a bitter falling out between the two former business associates (Kihiu and Karuoya) which has now translated into both parties trading accusations of “stealing a concept”.

According to the Law Monthly, Ms Kihiu has moved to court accusing Ms Karuoya and the Standard Group of infringing on her trademark by the name “Sista 2 Sista”. She alleged that Ms Karuoya has initiated a similar programme known as “Eve Sisters” using the same concept and clientele. In the programme, women gather to share personal experiences, training and so forth, what Kihiu terms an ‘experiential’ programme. Kihiu alleged that that she was aggrieved by Karuoya’s introduction of a similar product under the name “Eve Sister” which she claimed misrepresented the public by way of a similar concept.

Kihiu further claims that Karuoya was using the database of her contacts to publicise the event and “fradulently misleading her” that the even was for the “Sista 2 Sista” programme. Kihiu pleaded for orders to restrain the Standard Group from using the name saying that she was bound to suffer loss of reputation, sales and goodwill and other irrepable damage through the confusion generated by SG.

In response, Karuoya argued that the trademark Kihiu claimed to own had not been registered and what was before the court was a mentorship programme. She added that her former business partner had not tabled evidence to prove loss of money or that the whole concept was a collaborative effort between them.

Justice Kimondo ruled that Kihiu’s argument could not meeet the threshold for the grant of intelocutory stay against the media group. The judge noted that the Kihui should have called at least a member of the public to demonstrate that there was a confusion between the two products. The judge said he did not find sufficient evidence of the monies used by Kihiu on the trade name. In addition Kimondo added:

“I would venture to also add that on the face of it, the names ‘Sista 2 Sista’ and ‘Eve Sisters’, and even get-up, seem to be quite different from a visual and phonetic basis.”

Kimondo therefore ruled that Kihui had failed to prove loss of goodwill or deception to prove her case and dismissed the dispute in favour of the SG on grounds that the applicant had not established a prima facie case.

IPKenya plans to get the ruling some time this week in order to provide a more comprehensive analysis of Justice Kimondo’s ruling.