In Kyaninga Royal Cottages Ltd v Kyaninga Lodge (“the Lodge”), the Lodge filed suit to protect its use of the name “Kyaninga” and the phrase “Kyaninga elegance at its peak”. It was contended in opposition that the phrase consisted of a geographical name and common English words with no monopoly allowed in law. It was common ground that there was no trademark registered by the plaintiff over the word “Kyaninga”.

Lake Kyaninga is one of more than fifty crater lakes in Uganda’s south western district of Fort Portal in Uganda. It is surrounded by a tropical forest and its waters are a distinct hue of beautiful blue. The name “Kyaninga” derives from a local word meaning “to spoil” or “pamper”. Kyaninga is also home to the beautiful Kyaninga Lodge.

The High Court of Uganda ruled that Kyaninga was a geographical name not solely attributable to the plaintiff’s business and not capable of protection as a trademark. Similarly, the English words “Elegance at its peak” were commonplace ordinary words and not distinctive in their use unlike for instance the application of the word “apple” to very distinctive products.

A similar conclusion was reached by the Supreme Court in South Africa in the case of Century City Apartments Property Services v Century City Property Owners’ Association over trademarks with the phrase “Century City”, a vast residential and commercial location in Cape Town.

The public policy consideration in prohibiting the registration of a geographical location as a trademark is to permit any person whose business enterprise is located in a certain geographical location to use the geographical name freely by preventing the name from being reserved to one undertaking because it has been registered as a trademark.

The decision in Kyaninga Royal Cottages Ltd v Kyaninga Lodge is welcome as it adds to the limited jurisprudence in this area of the law.