Telecommunications firm Safaricom is once again on the spotlight after it was accused of stealing an idea in its latest service offering.
Safaricom on Tuesday launched M-Pesa Bill Manager for businesses which targets schools, landlords, utilities and other businesses with repeat payments, offering a platform where they can present and receive pending payments from customers, and issue electronic receipts.
The telcos new innovation, is similar to a concept by a company known as Kibo Capital Group Limited.
According to information in our possession the idea by Safaricom was already registered by KIBO Group at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI).
The M-Pesa Bill Management service is a payment solution that will allow schools, landlords, utilities and other businesses with repeat payments, to present and receive pending payments from customers, and issue electronic receipts.
Safaricom is not new to controversial infringement cases last year a commercial court threw out a case that was filed by two businessmen that sought intellectual rights of Safaricoms’ Okoa Jahazi offering.
Faulu bank also moved to court when Safaricom wanted to roll out the Mshwari services with claims of copyright infringement
This will come as bad news to Safaricoms’ CEO Peter Ndegwa, being the first Kenyan to be at the helm of the most profitable organisation in East and Central Africa.
Research by WIPO – World Intellectual Property Organisation reveals that the cases of intellectual property theft are rampant in Kenya. WIPO further observed that the innovators are hampered from pursuing legal means to challenge the theft due to poverty.
KIBO was the first firm to register the Electronic Receipt (e-Receipt) with KIPI.
E-receipt is a Utility model that is patented for a period of time to be used while benefiting the original owner of the idea for about 10 years, that’s according to the definition.
Intellectual Property Watch has in the recent past raised concerns in Kenya, after it became evident that big companies have ended up swindling young innovators.
“We have also cases where the innovations are stolen and improved, then introduced into the market. Many innovators lack the capacity follow through in courts since the cost in prohibitive”, a young innovator named Macharia told intellectual property watch (IP watch) in 2017.
As for Safaricom, it has been using its huge financial muscle to muzzle all those that lodge complaints against it. Of course, there are some youths who didn’t register their intellectual properties and thus lost it.
However, some have, and I wonder how KIPI and Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) allowed some of them to be used by non-paying corporate entities.
A while ago Mr Anyona Obutu, had created a way of stopping MPESA thieves from cloning SIM Cards and shared it with Safaricom but few months later, the Telco launched it without involving him.
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Safaricoms CEO Peter Ndegwa however maintains that the service will equally empower millions of M-Pesa PayBill customers with better record keeping by providing digital receipts for each payment.
A spotcheck on kibocapital.co.ke showed the same words used in their website for a company that has been in existence since 2015.
Intellectual Property Theft has stagnated innovation in Kenya according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
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