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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Inching Closer to Plain Packaging: Pictorial Health Warnings and Tobacco Trade Marks in Kenya

James Macharia Health Cabinet Secretary Kenya Tobacco

This blogger has come across Legal Notice No. 169 dated December 5, 2014 which states that the Cabinet Secretary for Health (pictured above), in exercise of the powers conferred by section 53 of the Tobacco Control Act, 2007 has made the Tobacco Control Regulations, 2014 which will come into operation six months from December 5, 2014. A copy of the Legal Notice and the Regulations are available here and here respectively.

Section 8 of the Regulations, whose short title reads: “prohibition on certain product descriptions”, is noteworthy and states as follows:

“8. A person shall not manufacture, sell, distribute, or import a tobacco product, for sale in Kenya, whose package carries a name, brand name, text, trademark or pictorial or any other representation or sign which suggests that the tobacco product is less harmful to health than other tobacco products.”

This section must be read with other sections in Part II of the Regulations on “Packaging and Labeling”:

3. (1) A person who manufactures, sells, distributes or imports a tobacco product shall ensure that every package containing the tobacco product bears warning labels and information required under section 21 of the Act and specified in the Schedule to the Act and the corresponding pictures and pictograms set out in First Schedule.

(…)

4. (1) No person shall manufacture, sell, distribute, or import a tobacco product, device or any other thing that is intended to be used to cover, obscure, mask, alter, or otherwise detract from the display of specified health warnings and messages including pictures and pictograms under the Act or these Regulations.

(…)

5. Where the health warnings and messages including pictograms that are required to be printed on packages are likely to be obscwed or obliterated by a wrapper on the package, the manufacturer, seller disfibutor or importer of the tobacco product shall ensure that the health warnings and messages shall be printed on both the wrapper and the packet.

(…)

6. (1) The manufacturer, seller, distibutor or importer of a tobacco product shall ensure that the specified health warnings and messages including pictograms required under these Regulations are rotated in accordance with section 21 (3) of the Act.

(…)

7. (1) The health messages required under these Regulations on all packages shall be in the form of a text message specified in the Schedule to the Act and a prescribed pictorial message set out First Schedule.

(…)

The Regulations appear to be made in compliance with the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health and represents a paradigm shift in developing a regulatory strategy to address addictive substances.

The Convention itself does not deal with intellectual property associated with tobacco packaging, particularly trademarks. Of relevance for this discussion is Article 11, which requires of countries to adopt effective measures to ensure:
(i) that tobacco product packaging and labelling do not promote a tobacco product by any means that are false, misleading, deceptive or likely to create an erroneous impression about its characteristics, health effects, hazards or emissions; and
(ii) that any outside packaging and labelling should carry health warnings that should be 50 per cent or more of the principal display areas.

And then there are Guidelines. These provide that countries “should consider adopting measures to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style.”

In this connection, the First Schedule of Kenya’s new Tobacco Regulations contains a “list of prescribed health warnings and messages including corresponding pictograms” which must be displayed on every package. These include the following:

tobacco regulations kenya pictorial warning 4

tobacco regulations kenya pictorial warning 3

tobacco regulations kenya pictorial warning 2

tobacco regulations kenya pictorial warning 1

To the relief of Big Tobacco, Kenya seems to have decided against requiring plain packaging: black and white or two other contrasting colours; nothing other than a brand name, a product name and/or manufacturer’s name; and no logos.

Be it as it may, this blogger submits that these Regulations will have the drastic impact of removing the last space for tobacco advertising (i.e. the packaging), reducing the incidence of smoking and thus diminishing the industry’s power to recruit new smokers. Readers of this blog will recall our previous article here on the constitutional and intellectual property arguments around tobacco plain packaging.

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.

Proposed Intellectual Property Law Amendments: Kenya Anti-Counterfeit Act

Parliament of Kenya

In an earlier blogpost here, this blogger discussed proposed amendments to the Copyright Act introduced through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2013 published in Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 146 (Bills No. 32). In similar fashion, this Bill also seeks to amend four sections of the Anti-Counterfeit Act, namely sections 2, 6, 16 and 34. A copy of this Bill is available here (See pages 933-936).

Read the rest of this article here.

Summary of the Industrial Property Act 2001

The main object of this Act is to provide for the promotion of inventive and innovative activities, to facilitate the acquisition of technology through the grant and regulation of patents, utility models, technovations and industrial designs. Section 3 of the Act establishes the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI).

KIPI is the main implementation and administration agency for industrial property in Kenya. It liaises with other national, regional and transnational intellectual property offices, patent offices and international organizations that are involved in industrial property protection. KIPI’s mandate includes: considering applications for and granting industrial property rights; screening technology transfer agreements and licences; providing to the public industrial property information for technological and economic development; and promoting inventiveness and innovativeness in Kenya.

The Act also establishes the Industrial Property Tribunal to deal with cases of infringement. Section 109 of the Act also criminalises infringement on others patents, registered utility models or industrial designs.

The application forms for patent, industrial design and utility model are available here.
The current fees payable to KIPI for patent, industrial design and utility model applications are available here.

 

Patents and Utility Models under the Industrial Property Act

hippo water roller afrigarnics limited isaiah esipisu

A patent is a legal document granted by a State that secures to the holder, for a limited period, the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, and importing the patented subject matter. Any new and useful process, product, composition of matter, or any improvement thereof, may be patented, if such invention meets these three requirements: (1) Novelty; (2) Inventive step i.e must not be obvious to a person of ordinary skills in that field of art, and (3) Industrial applicability.

The following are not patentable:

  • Discoveries or findings that are products or processes of nature, where mankind has not participated in their creations
  • Scientific theories and mathematical methods
  • Schemes, rules or methods of doing businesses or playing games or purely performing mental acts.
  • Methods of treatments of both human and animals by surgery or therapy as well as diagnostic methods practice thereto, except products for use thereof.
  • Inventions contrary to public order, morality, public health and safety, principles of humanity and environmental conservation

 

The steps to be followed for grant of a patent in Kenya are as follows:

8 kosgei kipi 2010

NB: Please note that the fees indicated in the diagram above may not be up-to-date, consult the link in the box above for the current fees.

Industrial Designs under the Industrial Property Act

9 kosgei kipi 2010

An industrial design refers to the ornamental or aesthetic features of a product.  In other words, it refers only to the appearance of a product and NOT the technical or functional aspects.

Any products of industry can be protected as an industrial design including: fashions, handicrafts, technical and medical instruments, watches, jewellery, household products, toys, furniture, electrical appliances, cars; architectural structures; textile designs; sports equipment; packaging; containers and “get–up” of products

The requirements for industrial design protection are: (1) Novelty;  (2) Originality i.e. independently created; and (3) Design must have “individual character” – when overall impression is evaluated against others.

The registration process for an industrial design in Kenya is as follows:

10 kosgei kipi 2010

NB: Please note that the fees indicated in the diagram above may not be up-to-date, consult the link in the box above for the current fees.