Kibo Capital Group Limited in Court with Safaricom PLC over KIPI registered Utility Model infringement

by Wakili Liam
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Safaricom logo on top of their headquarters in Westlands Nairobi

MPESA Bill manager for businesses that was launched on January 26th, 2021 by the Telco resembles KIBO Capital’s Utility Model that has been in use since 2017.

Kibo Capital had in September 2017 presented the idea to Safaricom’s Senior Product’s Manager for M-PESA to discuss the biller and e-Recepting solutions.

Material facts regarding the innovation by Kibo Capital were discussed but the contract never materialized only for Safaricom to implement the same idea 3 years later without involving Kibo.

The Telco has been previously accused of stealing copyrights from youthful Kenyan inventors through its now-defunct Zindua Portal.

Kibo Capital Group Limited founders registered the Utility Model in 2017 under registration numbers 169, 163, 195, and 168 respectively.

The law that supports the Utility Model registration is The Industrial Property Act No. 3 of 2001, the registering organisation is the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI).

What is a utility model?

Most people will ask what is innovative about a text message, link and a PDF, but that combination is what constitutes a Utility Model and is recognized intellectual property by the law.

Utility models are industrially new innovation. They are rights granted for inventions that fall short of inventive step required by the patent law. A utility model certificate expires at the end of the tenth year after the date of the grant of the utility model, and is not renewable.

Kibo Capital logo on their office door.

Since Kibo Registered its Utility Model in towards the end of 2017, the earliest anyone can use it for free is 2028. Right now, anyone using patents 169, 163, 195 and 168 is required to pay.

The firm had already signed up many companies on its system and infringement of the copyright by Safaricom Plc gravely denies it business as most have either asked for discounts and some have asked for 100% waiver on their monthly Bill’s from Kibo.

According to court document, Kibo had sent Safaricom a ‘cease and desist’ letter to which Safaricom responded rather casually and with threats to compromise the registering authority.

The back and fourth between the representatives of Kibo Capital Group Limited; Karanu Kanai & Co Advocates and Safaricom’s Kaplan & Stratton Advocate led to the issuing of a Certificate of Urgency, Intellectual Property case number 96 of 2021 was heard today, 31st March 2021. has seen documents which show Safaricom through its Advocates threatening to deregister the utility model.

The court issued an injunction over the use of the MPESA Bill manager for businesses by Safaricom.

It is hereby ordered that pending the hearing and determination of this application inter partes, interim orders be and is hereby issued restraining the Respondents its directors, officers, their agents, servants or any of them or otherwise from using, advertising of offering services. or dealina with the Reauestor’s utility model’s No. 163 being an invention titled: Universally Verifiable Electronic Receipt for Mobile Money Payments in the name of Onyango Jasper Ochieng, Utility Model no.168 being and invention titled: Sales Initiation Closure Notification Generator and Recording Engine in the name of Onyango Jasper Ochieng, Utility Model No.169 being an invention titled: Biller Integration and Receipting System in the name of Kibo Capital Group Limited and Utility Model No. 195 being an invention titled: Universally Verifiable Electronic Banking Slip in the name of Onyango Jasper Ochicng.

The Interim orders do last up to 21st April, 2021 when the case will be heard.

Safaricom is supposed to respond within 7 days.

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