A few weeks ago, Safaricom and Airtel Kenya opted for an out of court settlement in a trademark dispute, over mobile money transfer service branding, advertising and promotion. Safaricom had taken Airtel to court claiming that the latter was infringing on its M-pesa trademark by including symbols on its advertising. Safaricom further alleged that Airtel was riding on the M-pesa’s extensive marketing to gain advantage in the market.
The two firms have now told the judge they were unable to solve the matter amicably and instead opted for the matter to be resolved in the court. Safaricom previously presented in Court pictures as evidence, showing Airtel’s usage of signs similar to M-pesa trademarks for the promotion of its Airtel Money service. The two trademarks infringed are registration number 60093 used in advertising and business management administration, which includes a mobile phone between M and Pesa letters. The other is registration number 62612 used in branding of clothing, footwear and headgear with a hyphen between M and Pesa.
Prior to seeking legal action against Airtel, Safaricom had written a cease and desist letter to Airtel on the same, with the latter promising to investigate. In reply, Airtel wrote to Safaricom seeking the way forward with regards to the branding of agents shared by both Telcos. This according to Safaricom, showed Airtel’s intent to engage in misrepresentation with regards to its mobile money service. The sharing of agents, was a decision made by the Competition Authority of Kenya seeking to open up Safaricom’s M-pesa agent network which numbers to over 85,000 to its rivals.The case will be heard in September, with the Court directing the two parties to file their court papers. Airtel was also barred from using the materials in question until the case is heard.