Two Kenyan University of Nairobi students are not taking Nokia stealing their invention lightly. This week, through Milimani Commercial courts in Nairobi, the students have sued Nokia for the exploitation of their innovation. As you can remember when Nokia’s Vice-President, Rick Simonso, was in Nairobi to launch some phones and also the pedal charger /bicycle charger.
We contacted Nokia about the alleged theft. We managed to talk to Nokia communication staffers in EMEA HQ but the local head of communication, Dorothy Ooko, has become arrogant and aloof.
She has resorted to bribing bloggers and Tech scribes through phone gifts and the selective invitation to Nokia events with the hope of containing criticism since she hopes to get backings from bloggers who are in her pocket.
Rick Simonson said that the launch of the bicycle charger came after years of research to determine the needs of users in emerging markets. But we don’t dispute that. What we actually dispute and stand by is that Pascal and Murimi were the first to apply for the patent locally and so for Nokia to use the product in Kenya, they must recognise Pascal and Murimi. PERIOD.
Pascal Katana and Jeremiah Murimi who have just completed their 5 years degree from the University of Nairobi, coincidentally completed work on their version also the week of Nokia launching the charger locally.
The students have initiated the legal war and the case is before Judge Muga Apondi accusing Nokia of unauthorised exploitation of their innovation for commercial gain. Pascal Katana and Jeremiah Murimi are being represented by Ombati Omwanza and the hearing of the case is set to start on October 25th.
Pascal and Murimi filed the patent application on August 17th 2009 and it is still pending at Kenya Industrial Property Institute. Lawyer Omwanza told the court, “The defendant being a large scale company is using its dominant position in wrongfully depriving the plaintiff of their innovation and skills”. The student’s innovation is known as a smart charger and cannot fairly compete with the Nokia product.
The two students say they do not have a problem with Nokia selling their product outside Kenya because they only have patented the product within Kenya.
“They can launch it in Tanzania or Uganda, we will not complain. But choosing Kenya as their launch destination is to spite us,” said Murimi
Kipi Senior patent examiner John Maina said the phone maker could have a case to answer when Katana and Murimi acquire their patent certificate. He maintained that when the certificate is released, Nokia will have infringed on intellectual property and could be liable for damages.
The two applied for the certificate in July last year and, as procedure dictates, were given a notification of utility model certificate application number (000153) and the filing date.
“It’s a reporter from the BBC who advised us to patent our product before he could publish our story. We could not raise the required amount of Sh2,500 and he offered to help us saying the idea could be stolen,” said Murimi.
The two, both electrical and electronic engineering final year students, cannot institute legal procedures against anyone who infringes on their intellectual property since they are yet to receive the certificate.
Patent applications are normally published (the awarding of the certificate) after 18 months from the initial filing date. Maina said they are not allowed to disclose the date when the certificate is to be released since the process involves discreet investigations.
The students maintain that they waited for Nokia to contact them after their complaints but they haven’t seen any sign of the same. Nokia has upped the game of bribery of local journalists and bloggers .
The firm recently handed two bloggers Nokia N8 and also took one American blogger masquerading as a Kenyan blogger/developer to UK for Nokia Summit.