Troubled Absa Bank Kenya, which recently rebranded from Barclays Bank, is in a fresh legal saga with a local trader over possible infringements of user rights.
The trade name row has already found its way to the floor of the national assembly, with Speaker Moses Wetangula directing that the matter be handled by the committee on Finance and National Planning.
Saboti Member of Parliament Caleb Amisi, on Thursday last week, asked the Attorney General Justin Muturi to explain the circumstances that led to the change of name.
Mr. Amisi noted that Barclays changed its name to “Absa Bank Kenya” despite a similar title “Absa Kenya Limited” having been previously registered in 2007 and even issued with a certificate of incorporation.
This brewing controversy is likely to lead to a protracted intellectual property dispute which will possibly jolt regional and international operations of the bank with a strong market control in the South African region.
Mr Amisi has requested the Attorney General to outline the steps that the government is taking to address the concerns raised and confirm whether any user rights for the name were transferred to the bank.
The Absa name was registered in 2007 for a period of ten years and was renewed in 2017 for another ten years.
According to records from Registration of Business Services at the State Law Office, Absa Kenya Limited was registered on November 17, 2006 and the company is active to date.
Further, the website absa.co.ke was registered on September 13, 2005 and has been active ever since.
After announcing the decision to change its holding company name from Barclays Africa Group Limited to Absa Group Limited, Kenyan entrepreneur Edward James Njoroge Njuguna went to court, alleging infringement of trademark.
In his submissions, Njoroge said that his firm, Absa Kenya Limited, had suffered greatly because of the alleged infringement and its trading partners had cancelled various transactions.
In recent months, Absa Bank Kenya has been embroiled in multiple legal battles.
Just weeks ago, the Mombasa High Court ordered the financial institution to pay a transport firm Sh1.5 billion as compensation for allegedly leaking its confidential information to third parties and financial sabotage.
The order was issued after the bank failed to defend the case filed by New Mega Africa Ltd, in which it was claiming billions for suffering losses due to negligence by the financial institution.
“The defendant herein having been duly served and having failed to file a defence within the stipulated period of time, and upon application of the plaintiff’s advocate, I enter interlocutory judgment as prayed,” the judgment signed by Deputy Registrar noted.
The company, New Mega Africa Ltd, transports clinker from Kenya to Tororo, Uganda for the manufacture and processing of cement and other related products within the East African region.
Through its director David Abai, the firm alleged that the bank refused to approve its loan request on time which crippled its business.
Mr Abai also lamented that the leaking of the firm’s financial statement scared lenders, who refused to lend the firm money on an account that it had gone broke and lacked the financial capability to service loans.
He also alleged that due to the leakage, the firm’s creditors and other suppliers descended upon it thereby seriously interrupting the business operations to the extent of almost grounding it.
The claimant further complained that the bank failed to maintain the secrecy of the client’s account by printing its financial statements without authority or consent and sharing the same with strangers without its express consent.
He argued that the bank’s failure to act on his requisition for over six months amounts to financial sabotage.