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Firm Demands N2Bn from Etisalat Over Copyright Infringement

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A mobile finance technology firm, V-Exchange Ltd has demanded for N2 billion from Etisalat as compensation for an alleged infringement on its product’s copyright.

V-Exchange which specializes in providing instant finance solutions to individuals and corporate entities via intelligent data driven platform claimed that the ‘Kwik Cash’ loan service which Etisalat offers to its customers was allegedly a stolen product.

Speaking at a media conference, co-founder of V-Exchange, Samuel Ajiboyede claimed that on November 23, 2016, he met with representatives of Etisalat regarding his company’s product and for the purposes of partnering with the same for mutual commercial benefits.

Ajiboyede stated that at the meeting, the loan service product was showcased to Etisalat officials who upon being impressed by the demonstration asked to be furnished with more details.

He also said he was advised by Etisalat officials to obtain the Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC) Short Code being the only thing remaining for a deal to be sealed between the two entities.

Ajiboyede further stated that subsequently requested for a Memorandum of Understanding from Etisalat to enable his company acquire a Value Added Service (VAS) license to get the Short Code approval from NCC but that the request was never accented to.

The company co-founder said he was however shocked when it heard that Etisalat had gone ahead to launch the instant loan service without its approval.

Also speaking at the media briefing, Chief Executive Officer of the firm, Mrs Kemi Ayinde noted that well wishers had called to congratulate her on the successful launch of the product not knowing that her firm was not involved with the launch.

This publication sighted a letter written by the law firm of Ubani and Co to the Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Nigeria dated January 10, 2017 demanding N2billion as compensation for the alleged copyright infringement.

The letter reads in part: ” Our client has tested your product on several customers of your company and confirmed that the said product was the exact product for which it has exclusive right

” that this abysmal unlawful conduct of your company as highlighted above has infringed our client’s products for which copyright subsisted despite the caveat by known owners being ‘our client’ that no part of this shall be reproduced or copied in any material form with its prior authorization.

”Moreover it is arguable that the product reproduced in writing by your company was exact replica of our client’s products which were earlier in time protected by the copyright law.

“In conclusion let it be stated that aside the civil action for infringement of our client’s copyright, we shall be constrained to simultaneously instigate and initiate a criminal action with its attendant legal consequences against your company for exploiting our client’s copyright as provided by the act.

“Therefore your company is hereby warned very sternly to refrain forthwith from further infringement of our client’s by itself or through its agents or privies and monetary restitution in the sums demanded above of its unlawful exploitation of our client’s products which copyright subsisted in order to mitigate the loss thus far.”

In its response to the demand for compensation, Etisalat via a letter dated February 21, 2017 acknowledge having had discussion with V-Exchange over its product but denied infringement of any patent belonging to the firm.

The letter signed by Vincent Eromosele, Etisalat Head, Legal Operations and Litigation and Chimeka Garricks, Manager, Legal Services claimed that ‘KwikCash’ is owned and operated by an undisclosed financial institution and that Etisalat followed due process in acquiring the right to use the product on its network.

Etisalat further claimed that KwikCash service was already in existence and operational prior to its meeting with V-Exchange.

The telecoms firm in the letter denied any infringement on V-Exchange’s purported patent and insisted it cannot pay compensation for infringement.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Telcos Shun Reps’ Health, Financial Audit

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Telecommunications companies operating in Nigeria have shunned invitation by the ad hoc of the House of Representatives, investigating the administrative/ operational procedure of the companies and assessing their tax compliance status.

 

The committee had directed some operators and vendors in the industry to reconcile the over N5 billion quoted in its interim report as taxes payable to the government with its consultants.

 

However, some telecommunication companies questioned the committee’s legal right to direct them to a third party in the name of consultant after investigations had been concluded.

 

Some also expressed reservations on why the reconciliation of tax figures should be conducted by a private firm outside the National Assembly complex.

 

Hon Ahmed Abu, chairman of the committee in a later dated 5th October 2017 directed the telecommunications companies to reconcile figures quoted in the committee’s report with consultants at a location within Abuja on or before Friday 20th October.

 

Checks revealed that some of the operators and including MTN-Nigeria and Airtel and some vendors disregarded the committee’s directive as they denied allegations of tax evasion amounting to billions of Naira as reflected in the committee’s report.

 

The companies also refused to visit the consultants, as they described the development as a strange one.

 

Representatives of one of the operators who spoke to journalists, but does not want his name company mentioned, noted that his company refused to reconcile figures with the consultants as directed by the committee due to scepticism about the legality and appropriateness of the committee’s action.

 

He also noted that report of the House committee ‎ought to have been ratified by the entire House, and not made available to a consultant to achieve fraudulent aims.

 

“This is suspicious, we appeared before the ad hoc committee during the investigation, surprisingly, and the committee after concluding its investigation directed us to meets with its consultants outside the National Assembly to reconcile figures. We do not feel this is right and we don’t want to be accused of trying to manipulate the system. The committee should come-up with its recommendations and we shall be ready to present our position, even in the court of law. We are not in any tax evading business, “he said.

 

According to the report, telecommunications operators and vendors allegedly  short-changed the government by evading taxes which amounted to over N5 billion.

 

The report reflected that Ericsson is due to pay N1, 056,735, 665.77, HUAWEI N725,889,456.75, Airtel N875, 111,895.50, Glo 1, 243,337,001.34, MTN 943,889,454.61, Nokia, N272, 209, 514.

 

One of the invitation letters sighted our correspondent reads; “our letter referenced. NASS/HAA/081/09/17, dated 19th September 2017 refers. We attach herewith our interim report with details of how the liability of MTN 943,889,454.61, communicated to you in our letter under reference was arrived at.  It is pertinent to restate that the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the House of Representatives await the report of the Ad Hoc committee to enable them take

 

important decisions. Consequently you are requested to contact consultants /auditors and reconcile the figures with them on or before 20th October 2017, at Solomon Lar Way, Utako Abuja. Kindly be informed that if at the close of business on the 20th October 2017, the committees does not hear from you, the report will become the final report and the amount will become due and payable to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

 

The committee is investigating the administrative/ operational procedure of the companies and assessing their tax compliance status, and to also examine the parameters and procedures used by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in approving funds transfers for these companies.

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Ndukwe, Okigbo, Others for Anambra ICT Summit

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By peter oluka

Anambra is seeking a new positioning on digitlization as it prepares for its flagship Information and Communication (ICT) Summit with Willie Obiano, the executive governor of the State as Special Guest of Honour.

Anambra State, blessed with tech titans, has made brave moves towards digitalization, as Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, former executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and Dr. Pius Okigbo (jr.) former president of ISPON, lead other speakers at the Summit.

The Summit organised by Oliswanen Group in collaboration with Akulueuno Foundation holds this week Thursday, October 27, 2017 at Best Western Meloch Hotel, Ifite, Awka, Anambra State.

“Anambra government is edging towards digitizing the entire state”, a statement credited to Governor Willie Obiano reads.

The set objectives, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek learnt, include,

“To signal the beginning of a digital revolution in the state;

“To position Anambra State as the main ICT hub in the South East;

“To provide the right vessel for Anambra IT firms based outside the state, to establish their presence in the state in harkening to the AkuLuo Uno;

“To establish IT enthusiasts of new trending technologies and create an avenue to network with IT professionals and experts;

“To bring ICT and allied companies to display their goods and services and avail also customers of discounted prices;

“To harness the IT potentials of youths in the state by bringing together all computer / IT-compliant in the state; from Secondary Schools, Tertiary Institutions, young graduates and exceptionally IT-gifted youths that are not in the educational system for a grant IT contest;

“To avail the government of new ICT solutions that will enhance their revenue management and administrative processes.

“An avenue for government to appreciate the enormous opportunities that IT offers and propound new ICT policies in the state”.

Confirmed business participants, electronic solution providers; gadgets and application developers; telecommunication companies; electronic/digital product manufacturers and retailers; mobile phone dealers and ICT services provides.

Other speakers expected at the Summit include: Mr. Gerald Ilukwe, Mr. Uche Nworah, Mr. Marcel Manafa, Mrs. Uchenna Onwuamaegbu, Mr. Pascal Okeke, Mr. Emeka Okeke, among others.

High profile ICT seminar; startup mentors and angel invectors; IT contest for secondary schools; digital and manual entertainment are part of programmes slated for the event.

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Operators Kick over Exclusion from National Broadband Council

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Key stakeholders in the country’s information and communications technology have been left out in the newly reconstituted Nigeria National Broadband Council.

 

A document of the new council obtained by Nigeria CommunicationsWeek contains list of members of the council.

 

The list, however did not have any telecommunications operator in the country or industry association such as Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON); Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) among others as members of the council.

 

This was as against the practice in the old council membership where telecommunications operators and representatives of ATCON, ALTON and others were members.

 

The present scenario raises doubt over the ability of the council to supervise effectively the implementation of the national broadband plan to achieve 30 percent broadband penetrative by 2018 without the people that will implement the policy.

 

Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, ALTON, said: “I am of the view that critical industry players should be members of the council otherwise it will be more of an advisory council than implementation council. The object of the council is to make things happen and it is operators that can make things happen, they are the ones that understand the challenges of the industry in terms of providing broadband services in the country.

 

Adebayo who was a member of the defunct Council said that “If operators were not carried along there is the tendency that the council will loss vital information in the process of writing report for the implementation of the broadband plan. We as operators will cooperate with them to ensure that the objectives of the plan are realized, but, the ideal practice would have been to involve operators as members of the council just like the old council,” he said.

 

National Broadband council sees to the implementation of National Broadband plan; the council plays a supervisory role in the implementation of the plan. Although, the council does not implement, implementations are done by operators, various ministries as well as Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

 

It is the job of the council to ensure that different time line as contained in the National Broadband Plan are achieved, where there is delay, the council invites the agency responsible to ensure that any obstacle responsible for the delay is removed.

 

Lanre Ajayi, immediate past president, ATCON who was a member of the old council representing ATCON, said that it is ideal and appropriate for operators playing in the deployment of broadband services to be represented in the council if the council wants to achieve its objective and functions effective.

 

“In absence of the operators that will implement the Broadband policy and industry associations expected to represent the views of its members, I wonder how the new National Broadband Council will function effectively, this means that they will not get the right input to perform their role,” he noted.

 

Members of the new council consist mainly of Communications ministry, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and representatives of some agencies under the ministry of Communications.

 

 

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