Lions' Den Episode 4: "I hope you've patented it"
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a lion is a large powerful animal of the cat family, that hunts in groups and lives in parts of Africa. This week, for the first time in the show, all five Lions joined forces to look down a meaty prey namely Kennect Enterprises, a company that procures Gum Arabic from over 9,000 local farmers and supplies it to international manufacturing companies and industrial users.
First in the den was Felix Musyoka and Stephen Kilonzi, the brains behind ‘Rugbydicted’ Magazine, which they claimed was the first magazine in East and Central Africa devoted entirely international and local rugby news and analysis. Their passion for spreading awareness about the sport of rugby was palpable right from their haka-like performance at the start of their pitch. They offered the Lions a 15% equity stake in exchange for an investment of Kshs. 1,000,000 into their business. As readers may know, copyright protects all original content expressed in any material form which would include this exciting new Rugby magazine. Unlike other forms of intellectual property (IP) protection, copyright protection does not require registration and it subsists automatically on fixation of an originally expressed idea. Since the magazine’s content consists of a compilation of material from a pool of bloggers, it is important for the magazine founders to acquire the copyright rights in those article directly from the bloggers. This acquisition of exclusive rights in the bloggers’ content may take the form of either a license or an assignment agreement.
Next up was Churchill Onserio and Fed Oyagi from Spectra Africa Solutions pitching their app called “Niokolee”(a Kiswahili expression that loosely translates to “Rescue for me”) described in the Google Play Store as an app that “allows [users] to locate the nearest service provider for the emergency [they] are involved in or [have] witnessed. Their [The service providers] locations are displayed on a google map with their names and contacts, from which you can choose who is your nearest provider and call them directly.” The initial offer was Kshs. 500,000 for a 20% equity stake in the app. From an IP perspective, an app may be eligible for at least three types of protections, namely patent, copyright and trademark, depending on the nature of the application. For Niokolee in particular, given the simplicity and ease with which it may be copied and replicated by rivals, it would be important to capitalise on its early lead time to establish its brand as the preferred emergency response app. Despite the fact that “Niokolee!” may be considered as a weak mark given its descriptive nature, it ought to be registered along with the device of the two hands and the slogan: “Help when you need it”.
Finally, during the pitch by Anthony Mugiluri of Pawa Tele (an incubatee at Strathmore University iBizAfrica incubator) one of the Lions said: “So, Anthony, its a very creative concept. I hope you have patented it or protected it in some way. The PawaTele Smart Energy Device (SED) allows households to use both solar energy and electricity from the grid (Kenya Power) to power different lines. The full package includes the SED as well as a solar panel, a battery, inverter and charge controller. Given the nature of the innovation in question, it may be useful to consider utility model protection as opposed to patent protection. As readers may know, utility model protection grants an exclusive right over an invention, which allows the right holder to prevent others from commercially using the protected invention, without authorization, for a limited period of time. The key difference between patents and utility models is that the requirements for acquiring a utility model are less stringent than for patents.
That’s it for Episode 4. Stay tuned for more IP insights when we review Episode 5 next week.