Trade Mark vs Company Name Registration: Innscor Int. Battles Rwandan Companies, Pizza Inn Ltd and Chicken Inn Ltd

innscor-international-rwanda-trademark-pizza-inn-chicken-limited-image-by-nlipw

In a recent media report here, the Commercial Court of Nyarugenge in Rwanda has ruled that it will not proceed with a case filed by Innscor International accusing two local companies Chicken Inn Limited and Pizza Inn Limited of trademark infringement in Rwanda. The basis of this ruling was reportedly that Innscor had not demonstrated to the court that it had “legal status according to the law governing registered entities in Rwanda”. Technicalities aside, it is clear that once Innscor produces its certificate of incorporation in court, this case would proceed to consider the merits of Innscor’s claim (as illustrated by the picture above), namely that registration of a name as a company name by entity A should not trump any rights in such a name acquired previously by entity B through trade mark law.

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ARIPO Copyright Office Publishes Survey Findings on Status of African Collective Management Organizations

aripo member states map africa intellectual property regional organization copyright CMO survey

On the eve of its 40th anniversary, the Harare-based African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) has recently published the findings of a survey on collective management organisations (CMOs) conducted among its member states. A copy of the survey is available here. In the foreword, ARIPO Director General Mr. Fernando Dos Santos explains that:

“The findings [of the survey] indicate that CMOs in the ARIPO Member States are growing in numbers. It was also found that there is growth in collections of royalties and distributions. However, CMOs are also facing challenges which include insufficient or lack of awareness of copyright laws by users and the general public, users’ unwillingness to pay royalties, piracy of the copyrighted works, inadequate resources and manpower within the CMOs and inadequate availability of technologies that can be used by the CMOs.”

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Kenyan Java House Africa Triumphs Against Ugandan Cafe Javas in Crucial Trade Mark Court Case

Java House Africa Opens Grand Imperial branch Nile Avenue in Kampala Java House Coffee Shop Uganda Limited Photo by Sqoop

In a judgment delivered yesterday (February 9th 2016), the High Court of Uganda in Civil Appeal No 13 of 2015 has set aside the decision of the Registrar of Trade Marks at Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB). Mr. Justice Madrama Izama allowed the appeal by Nairobi Java House Limited with costs and found that the two marks from Kenya and Uganda in question are capable of concurrent usage.

Readers will recall that in an earlier post here, we confirmed that Nairobi Java House had filed an appeal against the decision of the Registrar in relation to trade mark opposition proceedings filed by Mandela Auto Spares Limited. The proceedings were against the registration of trade mark application numbers 48062/2013 “Java House” and “Java Sun” and 48063/2013 “Nairobi Java House” in the name of Nairobi Java House. The Registrar in his ruling upheld the objection of Mandela Auto Spares Limited and found that the proposed registration of Nairobi Java House’s trade marks would lead to confusion in the marketplace.

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Remuneration Rights vs. Exclusive Rights: IFPI, SCAPR, Kenya Copyright Board Clash over Removal of Section 30A

music recording studio

The International Federation of Musicians (FIM) reports that powerful record label umbrella body International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has written to Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) demanding the removal of Section 30A of Kenya Copyright Act. (See our previous discussions of section 30A here)

According to FIM, the criticism of section 30A by IFPI is an unacceptable “step backwards, the implication of which is that all treaties guaranteeing artists’ rights would be made devoid of any meaning (Rome Convention, WPPT, Beijing Treaty).”

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A Look at the East African Community Creative and Cultural Industries Bill, 2015

East African Community Flags Burundi Kenya Rwanda Tanzania Uganda

“Although the East African region has the potential to develop new areas of wealth and employment as it is rich in cultural heritage and inexhaustible pool of talents, the region still remains a marginal played in the global market. While the East African Community (EAC) Partner States produce world-renowned artists, still the contribution of creative and cultural industries to our economy has remained insignificant. Likewise, due to lack of incentives, financial, educational, infrastructure and technology support from the EAC Partner States and the business community, our local creative industries are not yet fully developed.

Nurturing and exploitation of creative and cultural industries in the EAC through an effective regional legal framework can contribute to job creation, income generation and poverty alleviation.” – Hon. Dr. James Ndahiro (Rwanda), Member – East African Legislative Assembly.

On 27th January 2015, the EAC Creative and Cultural Industries Bill, 2015 was read for the first time and committed to the Committee of General Purpose during the Fourth Meeting of the 3rd Session of the 3rd Assembly plenary session held in Arusha, Tanzania.

Between the 9th and 10th of March 2015, this Committee has been covering all EAC Partner States holding public hearings to sensitise stakeholders on the Bill and receive views and contributions from them to be incorporated into the Bill.

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ARIPO States Not Yet Ready for WIPO Budapest Treaty on Patents Involving Micro-organisms

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Recently, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in collaboration with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) held a seminar dubbed “Sub–regional seminar on the promotion and understanding of multilateral treaties in the field of patents: Paris Convention, Budapest Treaty and Patent Law Treaty (PLT)” hosted at the ARIPO Headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The focus of this blogpost is on the some of the issues arising around the Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure.

As many may know, the Budapest Treaty was concluded in 1977 and has been open to States party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883). As at March 15, 2014, 79 States were party to the Treaty. Interestingly, there are only three African countries that have signed the Treaty, namely Tunisia, Morocco and South Africa – none of whom are ARIPO member states.

As many may know, the Treaty was intended to aid in disclosure requirement under patent law where the invention involves a microorganism or the use of a microorganism. Such inventions relate primarily to the food and pharmaceutical fields. Since such disclosure is not possible in writing, it can only be effected by the deposit, with a specialized institution, of a sample of the microorganism.
It is in order to eliminate the need to deposit in each country in which protection is sought, that the Treaty provides that the deposit of a microorganism with any “international depositary authority” suffices for the purposes of patent procedure before the national patent offices of all of the contracting States and before any regional patent office (if such a regional office declares that it recognizes the effects of the Treaty). The European Patent Office (EPO), the Eurasian Patent Organization (EAPO) and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) have made such declarations.

According to ARIPO’s press statement here, Director General Fernando dos Santos in his opening remarks “lamented the insignificant role that Africa is playing in global IP systems despite the fact that nearly every African state has enabling laws to facilitate its better placement in the global IP transactions and indicators.”
Dos Santos reportedly challenged member states to find their way into IP filings noting that according to the World Intellectual Property Indicators 2014, of the over 2 million patent lodgments made in 2013, Africa’s share was a mere 0.6% ─ with most of these 0.6% filings made in Africa emanating from the industrialized countries through the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

With that background in mind, this blogger suspects that most ARIPO member states
may not be ready to implement a Treaty such as the Budapest Treaty at present. Taking the Kenyan scenario for instance, local patent applications are very few and whilst Kenya may have no problem with the Treaty per se, it would be a cumbersome, expensive venture. For the foreseeable future, the real beneficiaries of the system under Budapest Treaty would be the developed countries since they remain ardent users of the patent system. Judging from the 3 countries that are signatories to the treaty, it is clear that capacity is a big impediment.

To highlight this issue of capacity, let us consider the “international depositary authority” provision under the Treaty. What the Treaty calls an “international depositary authority” is a scientific institution – typically a “culture collection” – which is capable of storing microorganisms. Such an institution acquires the status of “international depositary authority” through the furnishing by the contracting State in the territory of which it is located of assurances to the Director General of WIPO to the effect that the said institution complies and will continue to comply with certain requirements of the Treaty.

In this connection, it is important to note that there is no institution in Africa that has been recognised under the Treaty as a  “international depositary authority” whereas they are currently 42 such authorities in other countries worldwide including: seven in the United Kingdom, three in the Russian Federation, in the Republic of Korea, and in the United States of America, two each in Australia, China, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, and in Spain, and one each in Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands and Slovakia.

Initially Kenya proposed to sign the Treaty and had identified two depositaries i.e Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) however the main challenge seemed to be a lack of capacity in proper handling of the samples and the means to maintain the cultures or strains to the required standards.
Not to mention the increased costs and logistics involved in the coordination between the IP office and the depositaries.

Therefore this blogger reckons that Kenya and other ARIPO member states need to focus more on growing Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) in terms of utility model applications and other connected areas of industrial property protection. Thereafter, as the innovation space grows, one expects that there would be greater demand and push from local inventors in Kenya and other ARIPO member states to join the Budapest Treaty so to enjoy it’s benefits.