Following the expiration of their trademark licenses, over 2,000 products risk losing their market protection in Kenya. This includes global brands like Vaseline, Smirnoff, and Total Gas.
The Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), the custodian of trademarks in the country, said it would clear 2,162 products from its register if their owners failed to renew their licences by next Wednesday.
The acting managing director at KIPI said they will be removed from the Register of Trademarks if no application for renewal is received by July 15.
A review of the notice by KIPI shows that several global brands risk being affected by the register clean-up. They include Colgate registered by Colgate-Palmolive; Vaseline by Unilever; and Total Gas and Total Gaz by Total.
Others are Hennessy and Hennessy Cognac by Societe Jas Hennessy and Company, and Philips by NV Philips Loeilampenfabrieken Vas.
Once removed, firms can apply to have the trademarks reinstated at KIPI’s discretion. This is however raising fears that the firms could be exposed to counterfeited goods.
A trade mark registration is valid for 10 years from the date of application, according to the Trademarks Act. Six months prior to the expiry of the 10 years, the registrar is required by law to notify the owner of the trade mark of the imminent expiry of the concerned trademark.
Trademark process in Kenya
When a trademark is registered with the Kenyan Trade Marks Office, it accords protection in Kenya only. Registration of a trade mark gives a proprietor direct evidence of exclusive ownership. It also helps keep off potential infringers who may try to ride on the goodwill of one’s mark.
According to the notice by KIPI, a number of those trademarks expired years ago. For instance, the Colgate trade mark is stated to have expired in 1998, Hennessy (1981) and Philips (1983); Pepsi (1998).
Other trademarks with more recent expiration dates are Vaseline (2008), Hostess (2008); Skoda (2009); Total Gas (2010); Smirnoff (2017).
Also, a few trademarks in the KIPI list are however of products that are out of the market. Products like Softa by Kiguru Food Complex that expired in 2008 has been out of the market for a while. Furthermore, the list includes names that were trademarked by overseas companies to protect against any trademark abuse in Kenya. Others have had their parent companies change ownership.