Idea/Expression Murkiness: Court Ruling in Nation Media Copyright Suit over ‘LIT 360’ Simulcast Show

Lit360 Nation Media Group April 2018 31337776_588196948202537_5963395935391186944_o

Like clockwork, behind every mega corporate launch in Kenya is a law suit over allegedly ‘stolen’ intellectual property (IP). In a recent High Court ruling in Incognito Productions Limited & another v Nation Media Group [2018] eKLR, the learned judge appeared to sympathise with the Plaintiffs but not enough to grant their application for a temporary injunction against the Defendant, one of Kenya’s largest media conglomerates that recently rolled out a multi-million shilling project dubbed ‘Lit Music’.

The face of Lit Music (which is really just a record label) is ‘LIT 360’, a 1-hour programme made available simultaneously on Nation’s radio, television and digital platforms. LIT 360 was designed with the aim of talent scouting, soliciting and harvesting content, as well as distribution, marketing and promotion of musical talent. As readers may have undoubtedly figured out by now, the Plaintiffs’ claim is that Nation unlawfully appropriated their concept which underlies Lit Music and LIT 360 based on a series of confidential business proposals made to Nation by the Plaintiffs between July 2016 and March 2017.

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Fire in the Sky: Law Society Shamelessly Remains Mum in Copyright Claim

‘Fire in the Sky’ (pictured above) is a stunning photograph of Nairobi’s skyline lit up against the backdrop of New Years’ fireworks. In April 2018, this work by Reinhard Mue aka Rey Matata was unlawfully copied and used by Law Society of Kenya (LSK). In June 2018, Reinhard wrote to LSK complaining about infringement of the rights to his copyright work and threatened to take legal action. To-date, LSK and its elected leaders have failed to respond to Reinhard at all, either formally or otherwise. As a member of LSK, this blogger is disappointed that the LSK leadership has allowed such a straight-forward matter to become a public spectacle.

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Mobile Developer Claims Copyright over Songa Music App by Safaricom, Radio Africa

Songa by Safaricom SongaMusic Radio Africa Facebook Kenya 27657099_536449873389869_8836242684635148261_n

The recently reported High Court case of Evans Gikunda v. Patrick Quarcoo & Two Others [2018] was born out of a business deal gone bad. At the heart of this dispute is a music application (app) that the plaintiff (Gikunda) claims to have conceptualised, designed and developed between 2012 and 2016. However Gikunda joined the employ of the 2nd Defendant (Radio Africa Group Limited) in 2013 where the 1st Defendant (Quarcoo), the Chief Executive at Radio Africa, ‘persuaded Gikunda to partner with him to ensure that the product gets to market’.

According to Gikunda, Quarcoo proposed that that once Radio Africa’s Board of Directors sanctioned its participation in his app, they would share out the ownership of the app as follows: Radio Africa – 40%; Gikunda- 30%; Quarcoo- 20%; and the remaining 10% to a strategic partner. However, in mid-2016, Gikunda resigned from Radio Africa after which he alleges that Quarcoo and Radio Africa sold the app, without his knowledge, to the 3rd Defendant (Safaricom).

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Ten Years Later: Dismal Performance Scorecard for Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Agency

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In 2008, Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) was birthed as Kenya’s TRIPS-plus experiment to spearhead intellectual property (IP) rights enforcement by coordinating efforts among various state agencies. In our humble opinion, ACA deserves no score higher than 3/10 for its performance in fulfilling its overall statutory mandate in Kenya.

It was envisioned that ACA would be a shining example of an inter-agency approach to IP rights enforcement with private sector coordination. Ten years later, it is safe to say that ACA has failed to live up to its potential. The reason? Two words: Institutional Corruption.

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Kenyan Company Seeks to Stop Barclays ABSA Bank Rebrand in Trade Mark Suit

Barclays Bank rebrand ABSA Group Africa Kenya Daily Nation March 2018

In the recent High Court case of ABSA Kenya Limited v Barclays Bank of Kenya [2018] eKLR, a Kenyan company has failed to temporarily halt the proposed name change of Barclays Bank to Absa. ABSA Kenya claimed that it had received cancellation of lucrative transactions due to confusion created by the planned rebranding by Barclays Bank. However the learned judge in this case dismissed the plaintiff’s application for interim injunction to ‘restrain Barclays from using, representing, infringing, advertising or in any manner whatever the trade mark and the name ABSA or its derivatives, deductives, corollaries devices and/or anxilliaries in Kenya or in any other place or at all.’

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Private Prosecutor Can Appear as Witness in Same Criminal Copyright Suit: Case of Albert Gacheru Kiarie and Wamaitu Productions

A recent judgment by the High Court in the case of Albert Gacheru Kiarie T/A Wamaitu Productions v James Maina Munene & 7 others [2016] eKLR is likely to have profound ramifications for the enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights in Kenya. At the heart of this case is a catalogue of widely popular vernacular songs such as “Mariru (Mwendwa Wakwa Mariru)” which is featured in the video above by Gacheru and produced by the latter’s company, Wamaitu.

According to Gacheru, his music and those of other rights holders he was involved with through his Wamaitu label have all been the subject of piracy and copyright infringement for many years. From 2004, Gacheru was the complainant in a criminal copyright infringement case (Criminal Case No. PP 06 of 2004) and was later granted permission to privately prosecute the case but he was then barred from continuing to undertake the private prosecution for the reason that he intended to serve as a witness in the same case. Gacheru appealed this decision insisting that he should be allowed to act as private prosecutor and witness in his case. The present judgment settles this 12 year old dispute on this matter.

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