Representatives from Konga.com have informed TechCabal that they will soon bring legal proceedings against Rocket Internet, over Konga domain names registered by the German internet company in at least ten countries.
The domains in question are in: Cote D’ivoire – Konga.cd, Cameroun – Konga.cm, Lybia – Konga.ly, Mauritius – Konga.mu, Morocco – Konga.ma, Malawi – Konga.mw, Konga.sc – Seychelles, Konga.sh – Saint Helena, Kenya – Konga.co.ke, South Africa – Konga.co.za.
Whois information indicates that all the domains were registered in June, 2012 by one Arnt Jeschke on behalf of Rocket Internet GmbH in Berlin. The date is interesting because while the twin ecommerce companies that would later become Jumia had already launched by then, Konga would not launch until July.
Rocket snapping up ten Konga domains across Africa just one month before the launch of an ecommerce brand that would compete with one of their subsidiaries will obviously be interpreted as a preemptive strike to contain a business threat. Konga, which has eventually risen to become Jumia’s biggest and fiercest competition, hasn’t demonstrated any overt international ambition yet. But if they wanted to set up shop in, say Kenya, Rocket Internet has effectively deprived them of the benefit of domain localisation.
Since 2012, both companies have been locked in a cold war, with email for ammunition, and domain names as bargaining chips. According to Konga, talks with Rocket management to retrieve the names have ended in a long-running stalemate.
In January 2013, TechLoy reported that in a retaliatory move, jumai.com.ng was registered and redirected to Konga.com. Google Instant previews revealed then that it was common for people to misspell Jumia as “Jumai”, thus the rationale for the typo-squatting tactic. A spokesperson for Konga described the incident as ill-thought unilateral action that has since been reversed — the domain no longer redirects to Konga.com.
Now rather than take the law into their own hands, Konga will pursue legal means to recover the domains in Rocket’s possession. Konga’s founder and CEO, Sim Shagaya is not concerned that the loss of the domains will affect their business.
“We are moving into a world of realtime app-enabled native services where URLs will become increasingly irrelevant”, he says. “But we’d like to have them back, nonetheless”.
With ten jurisdictions to do battle in, things could get fairly complicated for Konga and their legal counsel. But history is on their side, it would seem. On the 1st of June, 2012, the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s (WIPO) arbitration panel ruled that www.irokotvmovies.com was registered and held in bad faith and should be re-assigned to the owners of iROKOtv.com, after iROKOtv met three conditions — they had to show that the disputed domain name was confusingly similar to their trademark, that it was being used in bad faith and, thirdly, that the other party had no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
As Africa Music Law’s Uduak Uduok pointed out, they got a default judgement because the respondent simply refused to show up. While there is no reason to believe that the outcome would have been different, iROKOtv had it a bit easy. Konga’s suit might look like an open and shut case, but Rocket Internet don’t exactly look like ones to back down from a fight either.
Rocket Internet Africa CEOs, Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec have been contacted for comment.