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Safaricom battles rival for right to Okoa Stima name

Safaricom CEO Bob Colymore. Under the telco’s Okoa Stima facility, electricity consumers get credit  of between Sh100 and Sh2,000. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU
Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore. Under the telco’s Okoa Stima facility, electricity consumers get credit of between Sh100 and Sh2,000. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU 

Telecommunications company Safaricom has told the court that the contested Okoa Stima name is not registered as a trademark by the Kenya Industrial Property Institute and therefore using it in its electricity token credit business does not infringe on anyone’s rights.

Information technology (IT) services firm Colour Planet has sued Safaricom over use of the name, claiming that it developed the software from 2012 and that the alleged infringement has watered down the quality of its trademark.

Isaac Njoroge Kibere, Safaricom’s financial counsel, said in a sworn affidavit that a search conducted on May 25 did not disclose any registration of the name as a trademark.

“The claimed application for registration of a trademark by Colour Planet and the gazettment thereof does confer upon the plaintiff the right to institute the suit herein,” he said.

Under Safaricom’s Okoa Stima facility, electricity consumers get credit of between Sh100 and Sh2,000 to settle power bills, which is repaid at an upfront flat rate of 10 per cent of the borrowed amount. Defaulters are charged a penalty of 10 per cent on the advance.

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Mr Kibere said that Safaricom  had  on  April 10  lodged an  application for the registration of the name as their  trademark  but  was informed that Colour Planet had applied for the  registration of the same.

The mobile service provide then wrote to the IT company on June 17, notifying them of their intention to object to their trademark application since Safaricom had already been using it.

The phone company also said that the service offered under the disputed trade name is not in any way similar to the services provided by Colour Planet.

“The plaintiff cannot claim exclusivity for the use of name or trademark in respect of services that it does not render or is not capable of rendering,” he said.

Court documents show that the Okoa Stima service is offered by Safaricom through its intermediary Lexco One Limited, which is the vendor of the electricity tokens bought from Kenya Power.

Safaricom says that while the service was launched in March this year, it has been undergoing a conceptualisation process since March 2013.

The telco said that together with Kenya Power and Lexco One Ltd they had invested over Sh71.3 million in the implementation of the service.

Documents show that they expected to use Sh50 million in marketing the service and Sh4.5 million in paying their agents’ commissions, while Sh16.7 million would be spent on customer support.

Mr Kibere said that in the first year alone they expected to make a credit sale of Sh889 million.

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