Safaricom Sued For Intellectual Property Infringement

M-Pesa for teens takes Safaricom to court for IP infringement

A high court judge has ruled that Safaricom has a case to answer regarding Intellectual property (IP) infringement allegations. Kenyan businessman Peter Nthabi Muoki alleges that Safaricom deployed an M-Pesa feature that is similar to his innovation. As such, High Court judge Josephine Mong’are chose to dismiss a petition filed by Safaricom to suspend the hearing.

The telco wanted to launch a product known as ‘Manage Child Account’ under a USSD Code. However, according to the businessman, he had shared with Safaricom a similar product known as ‘M-Teen Account’.

This was an M-Pesa sub-wallet for persons within 13-17 years and 18-24 years. The feature was meant to enhance parental control of their children’s spending behaviours. Allegedly, the meeting took place in March 2021.

Safaricom had informed the gentleman there would be hurdles in rolling out the feature. Primarily, the biggest obstacle was said to be the lack of identification cards among the target demographic. This overwhelming fact meant the product had to undergo an approval process by the Central Bank of Kenya.

Mr. Muoki says he was shocked to see Safaricom testing a product that mirrored his own. Due to this, the Kenyan moved to court seeking to compel Safaricom to produce the documents he claims are in the telco’s custody. Included in his petition is a write-up for M-Pesa Parent Child Control product/functionality by Huawei Technologies to Safaricom and others.

His application was successful although Safaricom appealed the ruling.

Safaricom Ordered to Pay For Copyright Infringement

The businessman asked to be compensated for gains and profits derived from the infringement of his IP copyright. Secondly, Mr. Muoki asked the court to order the telco to pay him royalties and licensing fees. Instead of the loyalties, the business was willing to accept a settlement of KES 10 billion for the M-Pesa product.

On their part, Safaricom had asked the court to suspend the hearing of the case. Safaricom’s plea was on the ground that they have a pending appeal filed against an order directing it to produce a list of documents including a letter to Huawei Technologies (Kenya) Company Limited.

However, the telco’s application to suspend the hearing was thrown out.

In conclusion, I find and hold that the application by the defendant has no merit and is hereby dismissed with costs to the Plaintiff,” Judge Josephine Mong’are ruled.

The hearing date is set for October 31.

Safaricom is no stranger to court cases as discussed in this article. Recently, Kenyan musician Bamboo won a nine-year copyright legal battle against the company. The court ruled Safaricom has to pay Bamboo KES 4.5 million over copyright infringement.

READ: M-PESA GO: M-Pesa For Your Child