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Just who owns M-Shwari? Safaricom blunders raise more questions

The M-Shwari ownership issue has thickened after Safaricom sent two contradictory press releases on who owns the product yesterday.

“While the matter was already in court and is therefore subject to subjudice rules, Safaricom Ltd seeks to clarify that M-Shwari is a proprietary product of Safaricom Limited which is the successful result of a 2-year product development process, and we will resolve the matter through the right legal process,” read a press release from Safaricom in the morning.

Another press release from Safaricom in the afternoon read: “Safaricom Ltd seeks to clarify that M-Shwari is a banking product of the Commercial Bank of Africa and authorised as such by the Central Bank of Kenya.”

The two contradictory statements by Safaricom cast doubt over the real position as battle looms over ownership of M-Shwari, which was launched last month.

Faulu Kenya, a microfinance institution, has gone to court in an attempt to stop the use of the M-Shwari product, accusing Safaricom of infringing on its intellectual property rights.

The statement by Safaricom brings Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) as Faulu Kenya seeks damages against the telecommunications operator for violating its 2011 agreement to restrain either party from disclosing the M-Shwari concept to a third party.

Faulu already has a similar product with Safaricom’s competition Airtel called ‘Kopa Chapaa’.

The case could be the first major intellectual property battle in Kenya’s history and is set to be heard by Justice Jonathan Havelock of the High Court next week after it was certified urgent.

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