Open Letter to PIIPA on Puzzling Pro-Bono Assistance Request
We refer to your recent request for pro-bono assistance referenced as “Case 168 – Trademark Infringement in Kenya – Off-grid lighting product”.
This request is vexing, odd and curious for reasons that will be enumerated.
First and foremost, through the request itself, one is forced to question the motive and intentions of the requesting company.
The requesting company is described as a “social enterprise” thus one is inclined to assume that it is a not-for-profit company pioneering technologies and solutions for widest-possible distribution in the developing world. So, is this company a social enterprise, or a for-profit business?
With this background in mind, we are indeed puzzled that such an entity would chose to “combat” any and all use of its IP in Kenya. However, what is greatly troubling is the role PIIPA has chosen to play in all of this. The requesting company is clearly not short of financial resources given its affiliation with the Lighting Africa program sponsored by the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank. Why would PIIPA agree to help such a non-profit company get pro bono legal assistance to fight its IP battles in Kenya? Shouldn’t PIIPA instead be advising and assisting local Kenyans to repel such IP actions, or at least helping local Kenyans acquire their own IP resources?
Let it be clear that the gist of this letter is not to condone intellectual property infringement in any way, shape or form. IP infringement, wherever in the world it is committed, must always be fought.
Therefore, the requesting company’s desire to enforce its trademark rights is not being called into question. However what it being called into question here is PIIPA’s confusing stance on the matter.
One would expect that the requesting company would use its own resources to fight its own IP battle(s) rather than relying on precious pro bono resources that ought to be going to those who actually need it.