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ICANN's IRT comments - Alex Gakuru

  • To: irt-final-report@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: ICANN's IRT comments - Alex Gakuru
  • From: Alex Gakuru <gakuru@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 7 Jul 2009 00:13:13 +0300

My name is Alex Gakuru. I am the Chairman, ICT Consumers Association
of Kenya, an irrepressible individual Internet users' rights lobbyist,
hereby making a personal view of the IRT proposal before ICANN.

1.Free expression:
The proposal will curtail online expression which will be
counter-productive to our ongoing efforts on expanded IPv6 online
expression space. We risk being asked “whose expression are we
expanding? Ours or that of the IP industry?”

2.Fair use:
By over-protecting and advancing trademarks, IRT will further serve to
criminalise innovation from re-mix of older works, for private and for
fair use-as Prof. Lawrence Lessig in Keeping Culture Free clearly
narrates the current conflict between “old”Copyright/Trademark regime
when applied in the digital age.

As corporations grow with acquisitions and mergers, competition may be
stifled in the resultant oligopolistic markets which may be harmful to
the interests of consumers.  Flexing their financial muscle, private
companies can potentially influence government directly and
indirectly. Where there is less matured consumer protection
legislation and regulation, there is a danger that basic human
communication rights – the right to receive and share information, and
to form or express opinions or culture – can become vulnerable to
corporate priorities.(Kimani & Gakuru, 2009)

4.Equitable online participation:
In Kenya, and most of Africa, we lack adequate Intellectual Property
legislation and 'famous marks' protection besides absent capacity
and/or resources to record our own marks, locally. IRT proposal
unfairly and inequitably exposes our Internet users to an unfair
Internet domination by developed counties' advanced and well-endowed
IP industry interests. Thus IRT proposes to deny our Internet users
their fair and equitable online participation rights.

5.Cultural heritage marks and symbols, traditional knowledge
Traditional African marks, for example, the Kenyan traditional kiondo
and kikoy both of which have generated heated debate both locally and
internationally over what we regard as “theft” of our cultural
heritage by developed countries.

Kikoy was in the news when a company in UK applied to register the
word KIKOY as a trade mark - UK trade mark application number 2431257.
However an opposition was filed to stop the intended registration by
the UK Patent Office.

The claim that Kiondo is patented by some unnamed Japanese is an
emotive issue in Kenya. However no proof has been put forth to back
the claim of any one having patented the kiondo in any country.

Unlike the KIKOY issue in which it is possible to identify the trade
mark application number and the applicant, we have never heard of any
Japanese individual or company claiming ownership of a Kiondo patent
and the patent number has never been cited in any of the debates.1

If IRT proposal were to be adopted, how would ICANN protect all other
Kenyan and African icons?

Would ICANN maintain a register and enforce the protection of every of
African marks, cultural symbols, traditional rites marks - including
African intellectual knowledge passed through generations though
mostly spoken but unwritten. Is it a domain ICANN really wishes to

7.Therefore, in view of my above concerns, I pray that ICANN rejects
the IRT proposal.

Thank You.

1. See 
(viewed on 6 June, 2009), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiondo (viewed
on 6 June, 2009)
(viewed on 6 June, 2009)

Attachment: Gakuru IRT comments.pdf
Description: Adobe PDF document

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