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Athlete demands millions from drugs maker over advert

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Pharmaceutical company Rohto Mentholatum and its distributor have been sued by a local athlete for using his image to promote the muscle pain relief spray “Deep Heat” on social media platforms. Sportsman Joseph Kibunja has moved to court citing commercial exploitation by Rohto Mentholatum (K) Ltd and its distributorship agent, Harleys Ltd over the use of his image.

Through his lawyers Gitobu Imanyara and Company Advocates, Kibunja is seeking an injunction to restrain the two firms and their agents from using the advertisement to promote their products through social media platforms. He wants the company to compensate him because the firm has been using his image on billboards, Facebook, promotional calendars, sponsorship events and fliers.

According to the suit papers filed at Milimani High Court today, the athlete says he has worked hard to develop his reputation and a deep-seated proprietary interest in his name and image.

Joseph Kibunja guides blind runner Henry Wanyoike at a past event.
Joseph Kibunja (left) guides blind runner Henry Wanyoike at a past event.

The professional athlete guide for blind marathoner Henry Wanyoike, who has independently participated in more than 20 marathon competitions around the world since 2003, has protested that the advertisements have been carried by the two firms without his express permission since 2013.

The complaint is raising issue in an image captured in the “Deep Heat East Africa” page running alongside Wanyoike in one of the previous events. Kibunja now claims that he is likely to suffer irreparable damage since all efforts to settle the matter amicably have been fruitless.


The claimant says that due to the demand to be compensated, he was compelled to resign on January 16 from the Henry Wanyoike Foundation, where he was working as a volunteer. “It is my humble deposition that my involvement with the Henry Wanyoike Foundation did not in any way waive my right and proprietary interest in the image I have worked so hard to develop over the years. I am entitled to benefit whenever anyone uses my image for their own commercial gain,” read part of the suit papers.

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