27 March, 2008

Landrover Brand shifts gear on the way to Indian

Bloomberg.com reports that Ford Motor Company, the world's third largest car maker, will sell Jaguar and Land Rover to India’s Tata Motors Ltd.

Landrover is famous in Kenya and has for many years been the vehicle of choice for the Police Force. With the shift to India, what will be the implications here? Will our force still show their loyalty to this famous Brand despite the gear shift? It will be a tough choice given that the Mahindra aftertaste still persists in the country.

War on counterfeits

The Eastafrican reports that the Anti-Counterfeit Department in Tanzania has destroyed counterfeit goods worth over $224,000.

The report indicates that the products destroyed included Philips bulbs, Kiwi shoe polish and Sony Wega Television sets imported from China.

Haco Industries, a Kenyan company that manufactures the famous BIC brand pens is reported to be losing about $5 million annually due to counterfeiting activities in Tanzania and Uganda.

Another product targeted by the counterfeiters is Sara Lee’s Kiwi shoe polish, the counterfeits bearing fancy names such as Kivi and Kimi.

In Kenya, efforts to enact an Act of parliament against counterfeiting have not been successful so far. In 2005 a draft Bill was circulated for discussion by the Ministry of Trade, but it has not materialized into an Act of Parliament. Hopefully it will in the course of this year.

12 March, 2008

Rwanda MPs to undertake training on IP

The New times of Rwanda reports that Rwanda MPs will undertake two day training on IP. The report says that the training, facilited by WIPO, will enable the legislators to enact a new law since Rwanda does not have an IP law.

The fact that the report says that Rwanda does not have any IP law is rather odd given that in July last year Rwanda issued a compulsory licence to enable it import ARV drugs from Canada. Indeed the notification sent to WTO in parts reads that “… [Rwanda] will not enforce rights…that may have been granted within Rwanda’s territory with respect to the product.”

10 March, 2008

WIPO DG and Mexican Tequila tasting event

An item in KEI Blog reports that on 6th March 2008 WIPO member states attending a meeting in Geneva were invited by the president of the Mexican Tequila Council for a tequila tasting event in a Hotel in Geneva, on the occasion of a Mexican candidature for the position of Director General WIPO.

Kenya has also nonimated a candidate for the same position, view previous post here.

05 March, 2008

Kenya in below average performance in Global IP protection Index.

In a report titled International Property Rights Index 2008, by Property Rights Alliance, Kenya is ranked at position 82 on the strength of protecting Intellectual Property Rights.

According to the report, data for the survey was sources from diverse sources, including data supplied by 41 organizations some of who are IP owners. This indeed raises certain questions on the credibility of the data and also about its up-to-dateness. For example the data used to analyze Trade Mark protection was compiled 10 years ago and copyright piracy level is sourced from the USTR 301 watch list!

While Finland is ahead of the pack, surprisingly US occupy position 10 in the index. Interestingly, our neighbours Tanzania and Uganda are not doing so badly compared to Kenya. They are ahead at position 68 and 75 respectively. Not bad, Right?

Is Kenya Bus over speeding to enforce its colourful trade marks?

The Daily Nation reports that Kenya Bus Service (KBS) has put on notice other bus companies who it perceives are riding on its brand colours. The bus company Managing Director is quoted as saying that “we … intend to place an injunction if they do not stop using our brand colours.” It appears copycats are adorning their buses with colours similar to those of KBS and this is creating confusion among the passengers who use the colours to board the buses.
The report says that the bus company has registered a number of Trade marks under the Trade Marks Act, notably trade mark 59453(the words Kenya bus service), 59664 (device of a bus in colour) and 59665(device of a bus in greyscale).

I pick no quarrel (For now) with the word mark, but a whole bus as a trade mark! Really, which is the trade mark here or the essential element for that matter? I wonder how the company would convince a court that its trade mark, a bus, is adapted to distinguish its transport services from those of others. To be fair, the trade mark carries a disclaimer to the effect that the mark is restricted to the colours sky blue, blue and navy blue.

Well, KBS is not alone in wanting to claim trade mark rights in some colours; In BAT v Cut Tobacco [2007] eKLR, in a claim of passing off and trade mark infringement, BAT (proprietor of the trade mark SPORTSMAN) objected to the use of the colour red in the defendant’s cigarettes, HORSEMAN. The court of appeal did not agree and in effect ruled that use of the colour red as the predominant colour in a packet of cigarettes is not the exclusive preserve of anybody and that there can be no propriety rights in a particular colour.

Perhaps in trying to identify the essential elements of the composite marks, the Court dissected the two marks into their constituent’s parts and dealt with the issue of colour separately from the similarity of the two words making up the respective get ups of the marks.

Applying the same principle here, would it be the case that the court may decide to break down the bus into its constituent parts and find for example that the tyres of the offending bus are similar to the registered trade mark and therefore there is infringement? And could the offender argue in defence that the number plates are neither identical nor deceptively similar!

GI branding for Indian tea: A lesson for Kenya?

News Spot of India reports that India will embark on a campaign to promote its tea globally based on the product's place of cultivation such as Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri. The chairman of the Indian Tea Board believes that indicating the source and quality on the tea packet is critical for their tea industry.

In the 1983 India created a logo for the Darjeeling tea, which was then protected in many countries either as an ordinary Trade mark, a Certification trade mark or a collective trade mark. For example the logo is protected in a number of countries as a Certification trade mark through the Madrid system.

Is there a lesson here for the Tea Board of Kenya , KTDA and their counterpart the Coffee Board given the reputation Kenyan tea and coffee enjoy? Whereas China and India are major producers of tea in terms of quantity, Kenyan tea is known for its quality and is primarily used for blending tea from other countries.

By registering the word Darjeeling as a Trade mark or Geographical Indication in many countries, the Indian Tea Board is able to control sale of tea labeled with the Darjeeling mark. Dealers in Darjeeling tea are required to enter a licensing agreement with the Tea Board of India and pay an annual license fee. For the dealers to label their tea “Darjeeling” the agreement prohibits blending whatsoever with any other teas, the tea has to be 100% authentic Darjeeling tea. The agreement however does not prohibit blending so long as the word Darjeeling is not used. More information is available here.