Through the Roof: Iron Sheet Firm Sues for Trade Mark, Industrial Design Infringement

Royal Mabati Factory Website Iron Sheet Box Profile 2018 Kenya Limited

 

In what could be a precedent-setting case for the roofing products market, a leading iron sheet manufacturer is claiming both trade mark and industrial design protection for two of its roofing brands against a smaller rival company. The recently reported ruling in Royal Mabati Factory Limited v Imarisha Mabati Limited [2018] eKLR was the courts’ first attempt to deal with industrial property protection for corrugated iron sheets widely used as roofing material known in Kiswahili as ‘mabati’. Although not clearly distinguishing between the aspects of industrial design and trade mark protection, the court was prepared to rule in favour of Royal and grant its application for a temporary injunction against Imarisha.

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Customs Officers Cannot Enforce Intellectual Property Rights: Court of Appeal Judgment in Kenya Revenue Authority v Doshi Iron Mongers

doshigroup-630x315

In the case of Kenya Revenue Authority v Doshi Iron Mongers & another [2016] eKLR, the Court of Appeal was called upon to determine whether Section 5 of the Customs and Excise Act gives an officer of the Appellant (KRA) under the Act powers, rights and privileges akin to those given to a police officer in execution of his duties under Cap 84 of the Laws of Kenya, in particular that such an officer can enforce intellectual property (IP) rights including raids, arrests and seizure of goods not listed under Schedule 8 of the Customs Act.

In the lower court, the respondents had complained that their warehouses in Mombasa and Nairobi were raided between 1996 and 2006 by the appellant for no rhyme or reason, purporting to search for counterfeit, substandard and uncustomed goods particularly ‘BIC’ biro pens, battery cells, and other items at the behest of companies such as Haco Industries who were the assigned users of the trade mark.

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Book Review: Intellectual Property Law in East Africa by Prof. Bakibinga and Dr. Kakungulu

Intellectual Property Law in Uganda East Africa LawAfrica Cover 2016

Over the past five years, this blogger has not had the opportunity to write a single book review because no texts on intellectual property (IP) law have been published in the East African region. We now have our very first text to review: “Intellectual Property Law in East Africa” recently published by LawAfrica Ltd and written by David Bakibinga and Ronald Kakungulu, both from Uganda’s Makerere University School of Law.  The description on the back of the book (presumably authored by the publisher) reads in part that: “The text deals primarily with the law relating to intellectual property protection in Uganda (…) Throughout all the chapters reference is made to the corresponding Kenyan and Tanzanian laws and relevant cases in order to give the reader a regional appreciation of the subject. Intellectual Property Law in Uganda is aimed at students pursuing intellectual property law courses in Ugandan and East African Universities as well as peripheral students of intellectual property in the humanities as well as natural,technological and health sciences disciplines. It will also be useful to legal practitioners in the field of intellectual property as a ready reference on the subject.”

As readers may have already noted, the title of the book is confusingly referred to both as “Intellectual Property Law in Uganda” and “Intellectual Property Law in East Africa” on the spine, front cover and back cover of the book. So as not to judge this book by its cover, this blog briefly examines the contents of this 260 paged paperback text to establish whether it is a book on IP Law in Uganda or a book on IP Law in East Africa or something else altogether.

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Outdoor Advertising Dispute in City Clock v Country Clock Trade Mark and Industrial Design Case

City Clock Nairobi Kenya by SE9 London

In a recently reported ruling in the case of City Clock Limited v Country Clock Kenya Limited & another [2016] eKLR, the plaintiff sought injunctive orders against the defendants barring them from conducting advertising business on the clocks units using the name “Country Clock”, which was similar to the registered trade mark “City Clock”, which it was contended, were confusingly and deceptively similar in set-up, get-up and appearance to the Plaintiff’s clock units.

According to the Plaintiff, the main issue in its application for interim orders was that the Defendants have been using a name that is so similar to that used by the Applicant for over thirty (30) years, which similarity in name, it averred, is phonetically similar to the pronunciation of the Applicant’s trademark of “City Clock”.

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Are Intellectual Property Lawyers in Kenya Undercutting by Charging Less in Legal Fees?

supreme-court-fountain-kenya

This blogger recently received the following communication from the Law Society of Kenya (LSK):

UNDERCUTTING

The Council of Law Society of Kenya wishes to draw the attention of members to the provisions of paragraph 4 of The Advocates (Remuneration) (Amendment) Order 2014 which provides as follows:-

“4. An Advocate shall not agree or accept his remuneration at less than provided for by this Order.”

It has come to the attention of the Council that some law firms and advocates are undercutting by charging less than what is provided for under the order.

We are in the process of investigating the various complaints. Any member involved should know that this amounts to professional misconduct.

APOLLO MBOYA, HSC
SECRETARY/CEO

As many may know, the Advocates Act empowers the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court to make orders relating to the remuneration of Advocates for both contentious and non-contentious work. This section is the basis for the Advocates Remuneration Order which sets the minimum charges that an Advocate may charge for services. The Order was recently amended through Legal Notice No. 35 dated April 11, 2014. Curiously, LSK have not uploaded a copy of the Advocates (Remuneration) (Amendment) Order 2014 on their official website available here. However a copy of the Order is available on the Kenya Law website available here.

From an intellectual property (IP) perspective, Schedules 4 and 12 of the Order deal with Trade Marks and Patents, Designs and Utility Models respectively.

For instance, with regard to trade marks, the Order provides that an advocate must not charge less than Kshs. 7,500 for “taking instructions to advise on registrability of a mark or on a point of law or practice”. In a previous post here, we discussed the heightened competition among Kenyan firms with regard to trade mark practice, particularly in light of the recent 2015 WTR1000 rankings. However, this blogger submits that the fee of Kshs. 7,500 is already too low for any of the IP law firms and advocates to be engaged in undercutting. This reasoning may easily apply to other types of trade mark work such as applications, registrations, assignments etc.

With regard to patents, designs and utility models, the Order provides that an advocate must not charge less than Kshs. 25,000 to advise on patentability of an invention or registrability of an industrial design or a utility model or on a point of law or practice. This blogger submits that given the complexity of this area of industrial property work and the duration it generally takes to complete such work, it highly unlikely that any advocate or law firm would consider undercutting. However, the increased awareness among Kenyan inventors and innovators on the need to protect their industrial property may be an important factor fueling undercutting.

This blogger invites readers to share freely their views and experiences with how advocates and law firms charge for intellectual property legal services in Kenya.

President Assents to Anti-Counterfeit (Amendment) Act 2014

parliament of kenya by diasporadical

This blogger has received official confirmation that the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2014 passed by the National Assembly on 13/08/2014, was assented to by the President of the Republic on 28/11/2014 thereby bringing the Anti-Counterfeit (Amendment) Act 2014 into force. The Bill has effectively amended four sections of the Anti-Counterfeit Act, namely sections 2, 6, 16 and 34. A copy of the Bill is available here.

The Bill’s Memorandum of Objects and Reasons explains that the Anti-Counterfeit Act has been amended to “provide for the establishment of the Board to manage the Anti-Counterfeit Agency. It [The Bill] also establishes an Intellectual Property Enforcement and Co-ordination Advisory Committee. It [The Bill] also introduces a new provision empowering the Executive Director to compound offences committed under the Act.”

What follows is this blogger’s take on the recent amendments to the Act.

Section 2

This is an amendment by deletion. The words “or elsewhere” have been deleted in the definition of “counterfeiting” under the Act. The spirit behind this amendment appears to be based on the principle of territoriality in intellectual property law.

Unlike Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) appears to have facilitated public participation and stakeholders’ consultations in the drafting of these proposed amendments. For instance, the ACA organised a Stakeholders’ Meeting on September 25, 2013 to deliberate on changes to the Anti-Counterfeit Act. However, health activists voiced their disappointment with the outcome of the meeting (See here) which later morphed into a full blown social media campaign dubbed #TellACABoss (See here).

Therefore this blogger reckons that the health activists will be disappointed once more with the amendment to section 2. The health activists have consistently maintained that the definition of counterfeiting under the Act creates ambiguity between ‘generic’ and ‘counterfeit’ medicines thereby threatening access to affordable and essential generic medicines. They hold that this definition in section 2 goes beyond what is legally required under the World Trade Organization Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), which Kenya has already domesticated into law. The activists have been emboldened in their calls for amendments to the Act by the landmark judgment in the case of Patricia Asero Ochieng and 2 Ors v The Attorney General. In this case, the judge held, inter alia, that:

“It is incumbent on the state to reconsider the provisions of section 2 of the Anti-Counterfeit Act alongside its constitutional obligation to ensure that its citizens have access to the highest attainable standard of health and make appropriate amendments to ensure that the rights of petitioners and others dependent on generic medicines are not put in jeopardy (…)”

Section 6(1)

This is an amendment by deletion and substitution. The new section is intended to set out the composition of the ACA Board of Directors. This amendment principally aims at reducing the size of the ACA Board and setting the minimum qualifications for private sector appointees to the ACA Board. Any private sector appointee is required to have at least one degree from a university recognised in Kenya and at least ten (10) years’ experience in matters relating to either intellectual property (IP) rights, consumer protection or trade.

The lean ACA Board will no longer include the heads or representatives from the Ministry of Trade, KECOBO, the Office of the Attorney General, Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) and the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.

This blogger is in full support of these amendments as it promotes professionalism and good governance. The other IP agencies, KECOBO and KIPI, would be well advised to emulate ACA’s example with similar amendments to the Copyright Act and Industrial Property Act respectively.

Section 16(4)

This is an amendment by addition. Section 16(4) establishes a special committee known as the Intellectual Property Enforcement and Co-ordination Advisory Committee (IPECAC). IPECAC will be comprised of fifteen (15) members namely the Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization and Enterprise Development who will be the chair and fourteen members drawn from various state agencies involved in protection and enforcement of IP rights.

The spirit of this amendment is praise-worthy. However, this blogger is of the view that a committee of 15 members may be slightly bloated. Ideally, the members of IPECAC should be no more than nine (9) in number, with the bulk of the members coming from the various state agencies to be removed from ACA’s Board under the proposed amendment to section 6(1).

Section 34A

This is an amendment by insertion. The new section empowers the ACA Executive Director to act as judge, jury and executioner with respect to all offences committed under the Act. These powers allow the Executive Director to order the payment of a fine or forfeiture. However the Executive Director can only exercise these powers where the person who has committed the offence(s), admits in the prescribed form that s/he has committed the offence(s) and requests the Executive Director to deal with such offence under this new section.

This is a very positive amendment to the Act and is both constitutionally and logically sound. This section will allow ACA to dispose of criminal cases efficiently and expeditiously while expending significantly less time and energy. Once again, KECOBO would do well to borrow a leaf from ACA in this regard when making necessary amendments to section 38 of the Copyright Act.

This blogger will be keenly following the implementation of these amendments and the impact of these amendments on the anti-counterfeiting matters in Kenya.

Reminder: Training Course on Trade Mark Law and Practice, 30 – 31 January 2014

Dear Readers,

KIPI has organised a two day training workshop on Trade Mark Law and Practice in Kenya on the 30th and 31st of January in Nairobi. Although the venue is yet to be confirmed, the participation fee for the workshop is KES 25,000, which covers lunch, teas, training materials and a certificate of attendance for participants.

The training course is quite elaborate and includes the following topics:

Overview of KIPI – History, Mandate
Definition, history, function and economics of Trade Marks
Nature and Types of Trade Marks
Registration of Trade Marks
Filing and Prosecuting Trade Mark Applications
Examination of Trade Marks
Opposition and Expungement Proceedings under Trade Mark Law
Management of Trade Marks
International Protection of Trade Marks

For those who are interested in attending this training course, the registration form and programme are available online here.