Behold, The Inter-Agency Anti-Illicit Trade Executive Forum and Technical Working Group

Kenya Gazette July 2018 Inter-Agency Anti-Illicit Trade Executive Forum and Technical Working Group Ministry Industry Trade

The recently formed Inter-Agency Anti-Illicit Trade clique sounds like it could have been a WhatsApp group. In last Friday’s Kenya Gazette, the Minister at the time announced the establishment and appointment of both an Inter-Agency Anti-Illicit Trade Executive Forum (23 members in total) and an Inter-Agency Anti-Illicit Trade Technical Working Group (24 members in total). The Executive Forum and Technical Working Group are apparently expected to deliver on the President’s Big 4 Agenda pillar of enhancing manufacturing so that the sector contributes 15% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 9.2% in 2016.

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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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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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Four Africans Named among 2015 Managing IP Top 50 Most Influential People in Intellectual Property

mip award

As many will recall last year this blogger was the only African named among 2014 Managing IP Top 50 Most Influential People in Intellectual Property.

This year, Managing IP (MIP) has recently published the 13th edition of the annual List of the 50 Most Influential People in IP (MIP50). According to MIP:

“This year’s list… is one of the most diverse ever, including people from Europe, North America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Some of those on the list are known for promoting stronger IP protection; others are skeptical; some are known for attacking IP rights; and many do not fit easily into any of these categories. More than one-third of those included are women, a record number.”

The full MIP50 List is available here and readers can follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #MIP50.

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ARIPO Roving Seminars 2015: Copyright and Industrial Property Rights in Kenya

ARIPO Roving Seminar 2015 Kenya Director-General Fernando Dos Santos ARIPO Chief Examiner Emmanuel Sackey KECOBO Director Marisella Ouma Victor Nzomo IP Kenya

As earlier advertised here, African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) successfully executed its on-going series of Region-wide “Roving Seminars” in Kenya with the first two days (Monday 16th and Tuesday 17th of March 2015) being devoted to copyright matters under the theme: “Copyright in the Digital Environment” and last two days (Thursday 19th and Friday 20th of March 2015) being devoted to industrial property matters under the theme: “Protection and Promotion of Patents, Trade Marks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications”.

In his opening remarks, ARIPO Director General Mr. Fernando Dos Santos brought to our attention the important role Kenya has played as a pioneer ARIPO member state. For those who may not know, when ARIPO was established, its first headquarters were hosted at the Attorney General’s Chambers (Sheria House) in Nairobi before later relocating to its present headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe. Therefore the DG described coming to Kenya and visiting Sheria House as “coming home” since this was his first visit to Kenya since taking office as Director General in 2013.

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Rwanda: Well Known Status, Bad Faith Registration and Prior Use Arguments in ‘AZANIA’ Trade Mark Dispute

AZANIA

In an article published here, it is reported that Tanzanian firm Mikoani Limited were unsuccessful in their bid to have the Commercial Division of the High Court annul the registration of ‘AZANIA’, a trade mark whose ownership was in dispute between the parties.

Azam and Azania are bitter rivals in Tanzania, where the two firms, Bakhresa and Mikoani, are originally registered.

In 2013, Mikoani’s rival, Bakhresa Group went to the Office of the Registrar General at Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and obtained ownership of Azania trademark.

On discovering this trade mark registration, Mikoani claims to have immediately written a letter of protest to RDB which led to mediation efforts which failed because it is claimed that Bakresa lacked interest. Therefore Mikoani was forced to approach the courts for intervention.

In the case Mikoani argued that Bakhresa’s intention was to guard its Azam flour products against competition that would be posed by Mikoani’s Azania flour products in the Rwandan market. Therefore by obtaining a trade mark registration for Azania, Bakhresa had effectively blocked Mikoani from extending their home rivalry (in the Tanzanian market) to the Rwandan market.

However, according to the article, the court quashed Mikoani’s arguments on grounds that not enough evidence was provided to prove that Bakhresa’s actions were done in bad faith. The court is also said to have concurred with Bakhresa that at the time of registration, the Azania trademark had no owner in Rwanda, therefore the blame lies squarely on Mikoani for not moving fast to protect its own brand.

azania flour

A representative of Mikoani is reported to have expressed his disagreement with the decision of the court as follows:

“I disagree with what the judge said that there was nothing to prove that Azania was already known in Rwanda. We have been exporting to this country since 2001 and we have invoices to prove it; we are definitely going to appeal”

Comment:

This blogger is appealing to readers to share a copy of this judgment as it does not seem to be available online anywhere.

Be it as it may, the scanty information provided by the article is sufficient to raise three main issues regarding the decision of the court in this matter, namely: well known status, prior use and bad faith.

With regard to well known status, Art. 6bis of the Paris Convention provides for protection of well known marks that may not be registered in member states. There are however clear guidelines that lay down conditions for invocation of this well known status.

In this connection, it is odd that RDB is reported to have distanced themselves from the dispute claiming:

“It is mandatory to register a trademark to claim a right; -the protection is territorial, there is no agreement or convention between EAC member states on trademark protection. All member states use the Paris convention.”

The question is whether Rwanda has  incorporated Article 6bis of the Paris Convention on well known marks in its trade mark laws?

With regard to prior use, this is a question of fact that must be backed by clear evidence in the subject market: proof of sales; extent of marketing e.g advertising in media; period the product has been in market; established distributorship.

The question is whether Rwanda has incorporated a prior use defence/claim/remedy for an unregistered user of a trade name in its trade mark laws?

With regard to bad faith, this can be imputed if the court asked itself the following questions:

1. Are the two companies existing and indeed rivals in another territory?
2. Does the respondent therefore know that the subject mark is actually owned by the applicant?
3. Does the respondent know that just like them, the applicant has also moved into the Rwanda market and would naturally be seeking to protect there mark in the market?

If the above questions are all in affirmative, then Mikoani’s appeal ought to be successful.

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.