Kenya

The Kenyan IP scene saw some notable developments in 2020, with a new bill tabled that would harmonise the country’s various IP statutes in a single act and merge the existing Kenyan Industrial Property Institute, the Kenya Copyright Board and the Anti-counterfeit Authority. These changes are designed to strengthen the IP legislative environment, aid brand owners in tackling counterfeiting problems – which are widespread in the country – and help foster domestic innovation.

Firms

  • Bowmans 
  • Iseme, Kamau & Maema Advocates
  • Kaplan & Stratton Advocates
  • Anjarwalla & Khanna
  • CFL Advocates
  • Dentons Hamilton Harrison & Mathews
  • Simba & Simba Advocates
  • O&M Law
  • Walker Kontos Advocates

Anjarwalla & Khanna

One of East Africa’s leading commercial law firms, the well-resourced, well-connected Anjarwalla & Khanna is a safe pair of hands for any business brief. Intellectual property is no side hustle, but is rather central to its offering and an area in which it demonstrates a high degree of specialisation and proficiency. Multi-jurisdictional work on trademark and brand protection and transactional matters is a forte for the group, which is captained superbly by Anne Kiunuhe, an experienced IP and corporate lawyer with a large following, including prominent African and international names. She draws on invaluable support from Shem Otanga, who is cut from the same cloth as a responsive, thoughtful and thorough lawyer.

Bowmans 

With teams in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania collaborating in a highly sophisticated way, Bowmans is outstanding as a one-stop shop for regional brand protection. It maintains one of the region’s most prolific filing practices, underpinned by sophisticated IP management systems that enhance efficiency and drive cost savings. Adept at handling the most commercially consequential mandates, too, the team leverages refined knowledge of IP business realities both in its markets of focus and beyond. At the head of the IP practice is John Syekei, a tireless force for good in the IP world who represents patrons with energy, enthusiasm and street smarts. He frequently pairs up with head of trademarks David Opijah – who is also a go-to-for patent instructions – to represent leading financial services and technology entities and assist some of the world’s top IP outfits with regional concerns. When infringement disputes heat up, the firm has an ace up its sleeve in Terry Mwango, a seasoned litigator and alternative dispute resolution sage.

CFL Advocates

Testament to the quality of its work and service, CFL Advocates garners effusive client feedback: “With some firms, there are issues with a lack of communication and attention to detail, but never with CFL – the team is incredibly responsive and attentive at all times, and ultimately very effective in bringing about results.” With agility and poise, it delivers enhanced protection for brands not just in Kenya, but also regionally in conjunction with handpicked local experts; even when coordinating multiple other parties, the group never fails to turn things around quickly, enabling clients to focus their attention elsewhere. Gifted at managing large portfolios in addition to handling contentious issues, practice head Lorna Mbatia ascends to the WTR 1000 gold tier for 2021. “Highly skilled, knowledgeable and reliable, Lorna routinely impresses with her pragmatic approach and cost-effective solutions. She touches base frequently and with clear updates as to the status of files, which is greatly appreciated.” Also deserving a special shout-out is Moreen Mwangi, a young associate who works closely alongside Mbatia: “Her effort is above and beyond, she gives crystal-clear advice and she’s simply a joy to partner with.”

Dentons Hamilton Harrison & Mathews

A venerable name on the Kenyan market, Hamilton Harrison & Matthews – part of Dentons as of 2019 – has a rich tradition in IP practice. Its specialised group easily switches gears, allowing it to swiftly adapt to the evolving needs of clients and offer flexible service packages in response. Benefiting from the wider firm’s expertise in dispute resolution, the IP team performs superbly in challenging contentious scenarios, just as it does in registering trademarks and strengthening portfolios. The first name on the team sheet is Daniel Wanjau Muriu, who leads the IP department in Kenya and is the Africa contact for Dentons’ global IP group. A technically adept lawyer with a strong focus on technology, he is a perfect fit for innovative companies with IP, privacy and commercial concerns. He is well supported by Peter Kamero, an undoubted future leader of the Kenyan IP bar and a creative lawyer rich in fresh strategic ideas. Together, they act for Brandstock, handling prosecution and recordals for its many famous patrons. Anchoring the litigation practice, meanwhile, is Kiragu Kimani, who brings deep theoretical know-how along with tenacity to his cases.

Iseme, Kamau & Maema Advocates

Iseme Kamau Maema’s association with DLA Piper gives it a vast international network to leverage in the service of its many IP clients. A fixture of the Kenyan scene, too, it has a fruitful relationship with KIPI that helps it to overcome prosecution obstacles and secure lasting protection, as well as the experience and savvy to take on the most difficult briefs requiring new strategies and regional insight. When it comes to building strong, distinctive and enforceable brands, William Maema can give a masterclass: “He is willing to assist any time of the day and is someone who doesn’t just find problems, but seeks solutions. He has set up his team to give continuity to clients, which is of great comfort.” He and Christine Njau have “an exemplary track record of excellent service and rapid response”. Njau was recently promoted to the position of legal director, assuming responsibility for innovation within the firm.

Kaplan & Stratton Advocates

Distinguished by its “vast experience”, Kaplan & Stratton – one of East Africa’s largest law firms – has done much to advance the development of Kenyan IP law and has serviced the total brand needs of its “huge client base” for many decades. While rights procurement and commercialisation are strongholds, the set is also an accomplished handler of contentious matters and draws on a deep playbook to keep infringers at bay on behalf of prestigious names such as Delta Airlines. At the helm is Peter Hime, whose five-plus decades of broad-horizon legal practice have made him a most percipient counsellor. He is flanked by Patrick Ikimire, a dyed-in-the-wool IP specialist; and Sam Wainaina, a well-rounded commercial lawyer who understands the business side of intellectual property.

O&M Law

Serving as the Kenyan agent for many elite international IP groups and endorsed by the same for its “promptness and precision, clarity of responses and advice, competitive fees and flexibility”, O&M Law makes its debut in the WTR 1000 this year. The ensemble turns a practised hand to a diverse range of IP instructions, proving itself efficient in registration and decisive in enforcement. As managing partner, Patrick Ogola runs a tight ship; while as a practitioner, he overlays granular knowledge of IP law with a commercially astute approach. Coming in for praise, assistant head Andrew Ndikimi “always goes the extra mile and displays an uncommon level of dedication”.

Simba & Simba Advocates

When it comes to intellectual property, respected general practice Simba & Simba has “a great portfolio of international clients and files a substantial number of trademark applications”. Operating within the firm’s wider corporate and commercial department, the IP team keeps business priorities front and centre, whether securing vital trademark registrations or taking the fight to infringers – both of which it does successfully at domestic and regional levels. Head of department Perpetua Mwangi dispenses the full suite of trademark services, but has a flair for complex IP litigation. Another key contact, Bernard Murunga has diverse legal experience which gives his counsel on intellectual property and other topics a holistic quality; he has chalked up numerous wins in crucial trademark litigations.

Walker Kontos Advocates

For Walker Kontos, special expertise in the area of plant breeders’ rights is a USP within the IP space. Active outside this niche, too, it delivers crisp results in trademark prosecution and knows how to prevail in thorny contentious matters. Notable recent work includes representing apparel, footwear and accessories company LA (Group) PTY in a High Court appeal against a Kenyan Registrar of Trademarks decision not to allow its objection to a registration sought by Wardrobe Collections Clothing Store. Taking the lead on this case – which was transferred over from another firm – was Gregory Karungo, a polished litigator with tried-and-tested advocacy skills.

Other recommended experts

Peter Keya is a flexible, reliable, resourceful and available IP practitioner with incredible knowledge and a real enthusiasm for the practice. He provides the highest level of professional legal services and is great to be with in the trenches of trademark practice in East Africa.” He practises at up-and-coming IP firm Kibungei & Company Advocates.

Individuals

  • Peter J Hime - Kaplan & Stratton Advocates
  • Patrick Ikimire - Kaplan & Stratton Advocates
  • William I Maema - Iseme, Kamau & Maema Advocates
  • Lorna Mbatia - CFL Advocates
  • David Opijah - Bowmans
  • John Syekei - Bowmans
  • Peter Kamero - Dentons Hamilton Harrison & Mathews
  • Greg Karungo - Walker Kontos Advocates
  • Kiragu Kimani - Dentons Hamilton Harrison & Mathews
  • Anne Kiunuhe - Anjarwalla & Khanna
  • Benard Murunga - Simba & Simba Advocates
  • Perpetua Mwangi - Simba & Simba Advocates
  • Terry Mwango - Bowmans
  • Andrew Ndikimi - O&M Law
  • Christine Njau - Iseme, Kamau & Maema Advocates
  • Patrick Ogola - O&M Law
  • Sam Wainaina - Kaplan & Stratton Advocates
  • Daniel Wanjau Muriu - Dentons Hamilton Harrison & Mathews