High Court Strikes Down Appointment of Anti-Counterfeit Agency Board Chairman Twice in a Row

anti-counterfeit-agency-aca-nairobi-lsk-milimani-legal-awareness-week-2016-kenya

This blogger has come across a recent High Court judgment in the case of Republic v Attorney General & 2 others Ex parte Tom Odoyo Oloo [2016] eKLR in which the appointment of the chairman of Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) was challenged for being unconstitutional.  In the earlier case of Republic v. Attorney General & 3 Others Ex-Parte Tom Odoyo Oloo [2015] eKLR discussed on this blog here, the High Court struck down the appointment of Polycarp Igathe as ACA Chairman and less than one week later on 24th December 2015, the Cabinet Secretary responsible for ACA appointed Igathe as ACA Chairman to take effect from 17th April 2015, the effective date that was the subject of the Court’s orders in the 2015 case. According to the applicant in the present case, this re-appointment of Igathe was both illegal and unconstitutional.

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High Court Judgment on Constitutionality of Equitable Remuneration Right and Copyright Collective Management

skiza safaricom caller ringback tone service copyright license collective management society

 

Previously we reported here that two content service providers and three individual copyright owners had filed a constitutional petition at the High Court challenging the content of the equitable remuneration right in section 30A of the Copyright Act, the application and implementation of section 30A by the collective management organisations (CMOs) and the manner of licensing and supervision of the CMOs by Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO).

Recently in the case of Petition No. 317 of 2015 Xpedia Management Limited & 4 Ors v. The Attorney General & 4 Ors Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi (known to many readers for her landmark decision on anti-counterfeit law and access to medicines here) delivered a judgment at the High Court dismissing claims by content service providers and the copyright owners that the contents and implementation of section 30A are unconstitutional.

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High Court Rules New Tobacco Law on Packaging, Labelling and Disclosure Does Not Violate Intellectual Property Rights

British American Tobacco Kenya

Previously, this blogger reported here that the High Court had suspended the coming into force of the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 made by the Cabinet Secretary for Health scheduled to take effect on 1st June 2015. Recently in the case of British American Tobacco Kenya Ltd v Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Health & 4 others [2016] eKLR, Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi (known to many readers for her landmark decision on anti-counterfeit law and access to medicines here) delivered a judgment at the High Court dismissing claims by ‘Big Tobacco’ that their constitutional rights including intellectual property (IP) rights are being violated by the new Tobacco Regulations.

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Uncertain Future for Reprographic Rights in Kenya as KOPIKEN Collecting Society Registration Not Renewed

KOPIKEN Launch Collective Management Reproduction Rights Society of Kenya

In a public notice by Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) published on February 4th 2016, we are informed that KECOBO at its Board Meeting of January 28th 2016 considered the application for renewal of registration as a collecting society made by the Reproduction Rights Society of Kenya (Kopiken). After consideration of Kopiken’s application, KECOBO decided not to renew Kopiken’s registration. This means that as of January 1st 2016, there is no registered collecting society for reprographic rights in Kenya. In this regard, KECOBO in its public notice states as follows: “KECOBO will be consulting stakeholders of KOPIKEN to determine its future sometimes (sic) in March 2016.”
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Former WIPO Deputy Director General Sworn in as Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister

For many in the African intellectual property (IP) space, the name Geoffrey Onyeama is all too familiar. Until last year, Onyeama was Deputy Director General at World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) responsible for the Development Sector and was Africa’s candidate for the post of WIPO Director General (DG), which he lost to the incumbent DG, Dr. Francis Gurry.

Following the news of Onyeama’s cabinet nomination by newly elected Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, the former WIPO DDG underwent screening at the Senate, as seen in the video clip above.

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KEMRI Ordered to Pay Researchers 30 Million Shillings for Constitutional Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights

KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme KWTRP

In the recent case of Dr. Samson Gwer & 5 others v. Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) & 2 others Petition No. 21 of 2013, the Industrial Court at Nairobi found that KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP) had violated the constitutional rights to intellectual property of six Kenyan research doctors and ordered KEMRI to pay each of the doctors a sum of 5 million shillings as compensation. A copy of the court’s judgment is available here.

After an in-depth review of this case from an intellectual property (IP) perspective, this blogger concludes that this case sets an important precedent for the State’s obligations to protect the right to property under Article 40 of the Constitution of Kenya.

The researchers alleged that the respondents “routinely violated the Petitioners’ right under Article 40(1) of the Constitution by taking away the Petitioners’ right to intellectual property resulting in the Respondents, its servants, employees and students taking credit for the work and scientific innovation of the Petitioners by:

(i) (a) disregard syndrome; (b) Mathew Effect (Discovery credit inadvertently reassigned from the original discoverer for a better known researcher)

(ii) disapproval by the Respondent of the Petitioners and other local scientists innovations or work to apply for grants;

(iii) misappropriation of the work of local scientists to benefit expatriate scientists

(iv) frequent unfair administrative action

(v) Inability to veto adverse decisions by the scientific team leader

(vi) redeployment and chastisement through mail from the Director of KEMRI on the account of raising these grievances.

As a result the Petitioners submitted that the cumulative effect was to forever stifle the progress by Kenyan researchers and to impede their autonomy and dream of Kenyanising scientific innovations.

Therefore the petitioners sought the following reliefs, inter alia, a declaration that the Respondent’s conduct, acts and/or omissions are unlawful, illegal and/or unfair and the same violates Article 40 of the Constitution as well as an order that the Petitioners are entitled to compensation for the above alleged violation of the Constitution.

With regard to allegation (i) on the ‘disregard syndrome’, the petitioners submitted that the most rampant scientific misconduct by the Respondents against the Petitioners was plagiarism, a behaviour the latter termed as ‘citation amnesia’, ‘disregard syndrome’ and ‘bibliographic negligence’ on the part of the Respondents.

In this connection, the Petitioners alleged that the Respondents “arm-twisted the Petitioners to give up their intellectual property rights and cede their passwords to research and innovation” and that “the contracts of employment do not entitle KEMRI to the intellectual property of the Petitioners and the appropriation outlined is unlawful.”

The Respondents flatly denied these allegations arguing that there was not an iota of evidence before the court to substantiate the petitioners’ claims.

In its determination, the learned court noted that whereas KEMRI as an employer is a public institution, the funding under the KEMRI Wellcome Trust Research Programme emaned from external donors. These external donors attached specific terms and conditions to the grant and administration of the Wellcome Trust Research Programme which terms and conditions became subject of grievances by the Petitioners. However the Court found in favour of the Petitioners and stated thus at paragraph 82:

“The 1st Respondent as a state employer is bound by the Constitution to protect the right of the Petitioner and not allow a policy that appropriates their intellectual property as has been ably demonstrated by the Petitioners herein contrary to Article 40(1) of the Constitution.”

Therefore the court ordered that each of the Petitioners is entitled to compensation for the said constitutional violation in the sum of KES 5 Million within thirty days of the judgment date, including interest at Court rates from the judgment date to payment in full. Further the court ordered that the Petitioners are entitled to access all the outcomes of their scientific research and to the credit and benefit attached to the outcomes under Articles 35 and 40 of the Constitution. KEMRI was also ordered to pay the costs of the Petition.

Comments:

From the above, it is submitted that the petitioner’s case for scientific misconduct and denial of intellectual property (IP) rights by KEMRI raises a number of important issues. Furthermore, the learned court’s determination that the petitioner had ably made a case for infringement of the constitutional right to property under Article 40 is quite significant as it reinforces a dangerous precedent set by the Court of Appeal on constitutional enforcement of IP rights.

To begin, the petitioners’ case is problematic as it does not disclose which specific intellectual property rights have been infringed by KEMRI. This case is further complicated by the petitioners’ conflation of plagiarism and alleged IP infringement. As previously discussed by this blogger here and here, copyright infringement may also amount to plagiarism but plagiarism can never amount to copyright infringement. However the petitioners appear to have successfully misled the court to make a finding that KEMRI’s scientific misconduct of plagiarism amounts to infringement of the petitioners’ intellectual property rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

This leads us to consider the impact of the court’s IP-related findings in this case. The present judgment in the Gwer v KEMRI case appears to be in line with the recent Court of Appeal decision in the digital migration case where the majority of the appellate judges found that the alleged infringement of intellectual property rights could be the subject of a constitutional Petition. However as this blogger has argued here, the reasoning by the Court of Appeal on IP (and seemingly adopted in the Gwer case) was flawed.

Therefore on this issue of constitutional enforcement of IP rights, this blogger respectfully submits that the earlier decisions by the learned Majanja J. in the High Court cases of Sanitam Services (EA) Ltd v Tamia Ltd Petition No. 305 of 2012 and Royal Media Services Ltd & 2 others v Attorney General & 8 others [2013] appear to be more cogent and correct in law compared with the findings in the present judgment and that of Court of Appeal in the digital migration case.

As a parting shot, this blogger notes that one unintended consequence of this emerging jurisprudence of constitutional enforcement of IP rights particularly in the employment context is that ex-employees such as Samson Ngengi (See our analysis of Ngengi v. KRA here) have an added avenue to obtain damages and compensation from public sector ex-employers in IP-related disputes. This blogger is informed that arbitration proceedings in the Ngengi’s case are still on-going.

New Kenya Intellectual Property Office Expected in 2014

Daily Nation Cover November 19 2013

As discussed previously by this blogger here, the Kenyatta Administration is keen on overhauling the operations of state corporations in Kenya. It was initially reported that the Presidential Taskforce on Parastatal Reforms (PTPRs) was proposing that the three main Intellectual Property agencies that KECOBO, KIPI and ACA be merged to form a single state corporation.

The Taskforce submits that its proposed reforms are benchmarked on reform initiatives conducted in several jurisdictions including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Nigeria and the United Kingdom. From a IP perspective, it is important to note that the Taskforce report recommends the merger of KECOBO, KIPI & ACA to form Kenya Intellectual Property Office (KIPO).

Recently, the Report by PTPRs was released to the public and a copy of this report is available online here.

According to the Report, all entities previously known as State Corporations shall henceforth be known generally as Government Owned Entities (GOEs). These GOEs have been clustered in four (4) broad classifications as follows:

1. State Corporations: These entities shall be incorporated and managed under the Companies Act Chapter 486 and include: a) Commercial State Corporations; and b) Commercial Corporations with strategic functions that are to be defined through the national development planning process

2. State Agencies: These entities include: a) Executive Agencies; b) Independent Regulatory Agencies; c) Research Institutions, Public Universities, Tertiary Education and Training Institutions

3. County Corporations

4. County Agencies

The Taskforce Report recommends that the Government implement a Centralized Ownership and Oversight Model of all GOEs. The shareholding role for commercial entities shall however be exercised directly by the National Treasury through a Holding Company, the Government Investment Corporation (GIC), which the National Treasury shall incorporate under the Companies Act.

The overarching legal framework governing national government owned entities as well as County Corporations and Agencies will be the Government Owned Entities Bill 2013. This Bill, once enacted, will supersede all current legislation governing State Corporations on matters of governance and include all subsidiaries of Government Owned Entities (GOEs). The Bill will also repeal all individual enabling legislations and recognize the unique characteristics of national State Corporations, national State Agencies, County Corporations, and County
Agencies.

From an IP perspective, the report recommends the creation of a new State Agency to be known as the Kenya Intellectual Property Office (KIPO).

The report at page 107 reads as follows:

Copyright Law and Law Reform

In copyright protection and enforcement the government has established Kenya Industrial Property Institute, Kenya Copyright Board and Anti-Counterweight (sic) Agency. These
institutions sit in each others’ Board of Directors. Best practice has shown that the functions undertaken by the three agencies complement each other and are domiciled in one institution in many countries. It is therefore recommended that the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) and the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) be merged into a new State Agency to be known as the Kenya Intellectual Property Office (KIPO).”

It can only be assumed that the Taskforce is referring to IP Law, IP protection and enforcement and not only copyright as erroneously stated in the Report.

On page 192 of the Report, KIPO is classified as an Executive Agency under the broad category of State Agency. The Report elaborates that the enabling legislation for KIPO is yet to be drafted. Finally the Report states that KIPO will be a State Agency under the Cabinet Secretary of Industrialisation and Enterprise Development.

Media reports indicate that President Kenyatta has directed that the recommendations in the Report be implemented in three months time. To this end, Kenyatta directed that a government-led Entities Reforms Implementation Committee would be established to facilitate, oversee and monitor implementation of the Report’s recommendations.