Japanese electronics giant SONY’s quest to protect its trade name in Kenya has suffered a major setback after the High Court ruled that the company is not a well-known brand here.
Justice Francis Tuiyot made the findings in a suit Sony Corporation had filed against owners of Westgate Mall seeking to retain exclusive rights over the “Sony” tag.
The decision effectively means the judge upheld the Registrar of Trademarks 2015 ruling that Sony Corporation had not provided sufficient proof that Sony is a well-known brand in Kenya.
“The conclusion by the Assistant Registrar, and now upheld by this court, that the appellant had failed to prove that SONY is a well-known trade mark in Kenya may be shock to many. Is it not obvious to the assistant registrar and the judge that Sony is a well-known global brand it can be asked?” Justice Tuiyot asked before concluding that the court ‘cannot draw a conclusion from its own personal perception’.
He then agreed with the assistant registrar that no evidence was produced before him to prove that SONY is a well-known brand in Kenya.
The court further observed that while Sony Corporation produced evidence of sponsoring numerous sports and other international events, no evidence was adduced to show millions of Kenyans accessed and viewed those sports as claimed.
Further, the judge argued that while the petitioner had claimed that Sony is registered and used in more than 200 countries globally, no evidence was produced to support the same.
Besides, Sony Corporation’s case was also found wanting for tabling the company’s global sales without providing figures for Kenyan sales.
The judge, however, acknowledged that the two names are identical and directed that Sony Holdings marks should not be registered under marks in the four categories where Sony Corporation has been registered.
Both parties asked for leave to appeal the decision and were allowed.
Sony Corporation had moved to court seeking to reverse the industrial property rights agency’s decision to allow the registration of Sony Holdings, a company owned by Westgate Mall owners, as a trademark.
The Registrar of Trademarks in 2015 ruled that Sony Corporation had not provided enough evidence to show the degree of knowledge of its trademark among Kenyan electronics users.
Besides, the registrar also argued that property developer, Sony Holdings, had since its inception carried out honest real estate business and could not be said to be using the Japanese company’s name to deceive the public.
But Japan’s Sony held that the registrar ignored crucial evidence it provided in support of its opposition to the recording of the Sony Holdings trademark.