EXCLUSIVE: Rocket Internet May Face Lawsuit Over ‘Konga’ Domain Squatting

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If you’ve been reading TechLoy, you would know that the Internet ecosystem has been heating up in recent times with dramatic moments and anti-competitive moves.

Remember when Dealfish hijacked the word ‘jobberman’ in its Google Adwords campaign? Or when Google played dirty with Mocality, its business listing competitor in Kenya? And what about the alleged copyright infringement of the Kasuwa trademark by Rocket Internet?

Because we love drama and know you do too, we will keep chronicling these stories from time to time, even if TechLoy is involved in the drama.

Anyway, Rocket Internet is in the news once again. This time, the German-based start-up incubator is allegedly playing dirty with Konga, its major e-commerce competitor in Nigeria.

We’ve learned that Rocket Internet has registered Konga’s domain names in several African countries (at least 10) and although they may not have the intention to use those domain names, their actions may be perceived with the bad faith intent to later sell it to Konga.

In August, Rocket Internet consolidated two of its e-commerce offerings in NigeriaKasuwa and Sabunta — to form Jumia in a move said to be in co-operation with its operations in Egypt, Morocco and other locations across the African continent using the Jumia brand name and to help position the brand as the largest online retailer in Africa.

Now, we can’t say for sure why Rocket Internet has been registering Konga domain names in South Africa (konga.co.za) and Kenya (konga.co.ke) since June 2012, but industry sources tell us that both companies have recently been linked with possible merger talks, although the deal has fallen apart.

Update: To date, Rocket Internet has registed konga.cd, konga.cm, konga.ly, konga.ma, konga.mu, konga.mw, konga.sc, konga.sh, konga.co.ke and konga.co.za

If there’s no merger agreement between both companies, one wonders why Rocket Internet is engaging in such an unprofessional and anti-competitive move that could make it appear evil.

It probably makes you wonder if Rocket Internet has a business division for cyber-squatting its competitor’s domain names in other countries with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill its competitors.

Whatever the case, I’m sure that Konga is aware of this trend as it’s been planning its expansion to other African countries and perhaps both company’s lawyers have been exchanging communications via email.

Or perhaps Konga may have filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and hopefully this trivial issue would be resolved quickly using the Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy (UDRP) process developed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Globally, disputes over web addresses have hit a record high, as recent figures revealed that the number of disputes over domain names hit 2,944 in July 2012, compared with 2,775 in July 2011 – marking a 6% increase on the year, reports Telegraph.

Although the United States still leads on the number of domain disputes, Chinese companies have rapidly risen to second place, accounting for more than 12% of all complaints around the world.

As far as we know, domain disputes are still in the early days in Nigeria, but this might soon change with the growth of domain squatting in the country. If you run business with a web domain, it is advisable to have your brand name registered with the trademark office in the relevant country and then purchase the best and most relevant domain names you can.

While we can’t say for certain whether or not Konga has its brand name registered as a trademark in South Africa or Kenya, we’re guessing that it has sorted its trademark registration in Nigeria already.

Although we don’t know if Rocket Internet has the Konga trademark in those countries it currently owns the domain names, we don’t believe that it wants to use the domain names, and may have registered them in bad faith to perhaps force Konga to rebrand its business or sell to the company.

It would be interesting to watch what happens in the next couple of months and we would be bringing you more updates as we know more. In the meantime, if you love drama, why not head over to our Drama channel for more dramatic moments in tech.


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