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MTN Faces N112.5Bn Suit over Use of Comedy Brand

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Femi Edwards, a content producer who specializes in the business of events productions, promotions and marketing with particular focus on comedy, has dragged telecommunications firm, MTN Nigeria Limited before a Federal High Court in Lagos demanding account of N112.5 billion revenue allegedly generated from the wrongful use of a comedy brand.

 

According to the suit, the plaintiff is accusing MTN of illegally using his comedy content without recourse to him, and generating whooping revenue from the said copyright infringement.

 

Edwards, who is trading under the name and style of Mayphem International, recalled that in 2009, he started a platform that promotes the comedy industry called ‘KomicRELOUDED’ which according to him, was a print magazine widely accepted by the industry.

 

The plaintiff, in the suit with reference number FHC/L/CS/18/18, averred that in the following year, he rebranded to ‘Comedy+’, adding that he had been maintaining the brand ever since with sales outlets across Nigeria.

 

He said leveraging on the success of the brand ‘Comedy+’, he went into the business of organizing comedy shows and concerts throughout the country, and that over the years, the brand ‘Comedy+’ and ‘ComedyPlus’ have come to be associated with him as signifying publications, comedy shows, entertainment and other events produced, promoted or marketed by him or with his collaboration in both physical and digital platforms, print and electronic media, with substantial reputation by the use of same.

 

However, the plaintiff said on March 17, 2017, MTN launched a digital platform tagged ‘Comedy+’ where it advertised the intent to and where it has continued to wrongfully produce, promote, market and pass off comedy shows and other entertainment without recourse to him as the copyright owner of the brand.

 

Edwards said to his surprise, several comedy artists and members of the public had called to congratulate him on the launch of the digital comedy platform of MTN under the belief that he was the person behind it, adding that being a huge commercial enterprise, MTN wrongfully acquired mileage from a popular brand which he created, to launch into the budding comedy sector in Nigeria.

 

He said the comedy industry had been in its developing stages in Nigeria, and that the brand which he struggled to create, was wrongfully leveraged on by MTN to generate a whooping N112.5billion.

 

According to him, “The stand-up comedy industry in Nigeria has been in its developing or budding stages and the brand ‘Comedy+’ which the plaintiff has built, has become synonymous with the promotion of comedy and entertainment in general in the country and has a reputation of being one of the pioneer stand-up comedy, general comedy and general entertainment promotion brands in the country that have helped to build the art of stand-up comedy into an industry.

 

“The defendant has profited from the passing off of the services and the products of the plaintiff in the excess of N112.5billion as presently known to the plaintiff until search, discovery and inspection.”

 

Giving details of how the figure was arrived at, the plaintiff said his ‘Comedy+’ brand was passed off by MTN to its subscribers which number up to 59 million, while from the defendant’s subscription price list, at the cheapest rate of N250 per month, MTN made N112.5 billion in nine months between March to December 2017 with the number of subscribers limited to 50 million and discounting 9 million.

 

Dissatisfied with the development, the plaintiff said he wrote to MTN through his lawyer on September 12, 2017 complaining of the passing off of his brand, and that the company replied on September 18, 2017 promising to look into the complaint.

 

After waiting for some time without response, the plaintiff said he wrote again to the firm, while on October 23, 2017, MTN responded and denied absolutely any liability, but without denying its use of the brand or trade name ‘Comedy+’.

 

The plaintiff, according to the suit filed on his behalf by Chuks Nwachukwu of Indemnity Partners Law Firm, is therefore seeking an injunction restraining MTN whether by itself, servants, agents or otherwise howsoever from producing, promoting or marketing under the brand name ‘Comedy+’ any comedy related or other entertainment shows or content not produced, promoted or marketed by the plaintiff or with his collaboration.

 

The plaintiff also wants an injunction mandating MTN to render account of profits and receipts so far made using the brand ‘Comedy+’, as well as damages for the wrongful use of the brand.

 

Already, the matter has been assigned to Justice Chuka Obiozor who has fixed hearing of an application for interlocutory injunction in the suit against MTN to October 29, 2018.

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StarTimes Boosts Nigerian Economy with $220m Investment, Pays $25m Tax

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StarTimes, a direct-to-home pay-tv service said it has invested over $220 million in Nigeria, in the last eight years to boost entertainment and enrich the country’s television viewers’ experiences.

 

Mr. Joshua Wang, who represented the CEO of NTA-STAR TV, said Startimes commenced operation in 2010 in Nigeria through NTA-Star TV, adding that it has actively promoted leading Chinese programmes in local languages, like Hausa and Yoruba.

 

Wang, a director of the organisation, stated this in Abuja at the celebration of Chinese Film Festival and cinema show of the “Operation Red Sea Movie”.

 

He said, “So far, we have invested $220m in Nigeria, developed a network of nearly 3,000 distributors in the country, and developed around four million subscribers. We are actively involved in corporate social responsibility and have paid a total of $25m in tax, recruited more than 1,300 local staff, 97 per cent of whom are Nigerians.”

 

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture, represented by Grace Isu Gekpe, permanent secretary, said, “Cultures are what make countries unique. I believe we will understand each other’s culture better if we have the opportunity to watch movies from both cultures.”

 

Mr. Lin Jing, Charge d’affair of the Chinese Embassy to Nigeria pledged that the Chinese Government is committed to the agreements reached with Nigeria and other African countries to bring rapid development to the continent.

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NCC Reaffirms Suspension of COSON’s Operating License

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Mr. Afam Ezekude, director general of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), has reaffirmed to stakeholders and the general public that the Operating License of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (Ltd/Gte) (COSON) is and remains suspended until further notice.

Mr. Afam Ezekude disclosed this while responding to recent social media publications made by COSON claiming that the Federal High Court had ordered the NCC to suspend all actions, proceedings and processes relating to the suspension of its license and the freezing of its bank account.

He stressed that the commission has not been served with any order of the Federal High Court as regards the suspension of the operating license of COSON, and is not aware of any such order.

The DG noted that the said publication did not disclose the particulars of the case in which the Order was made such as, the suit number of the case; the Judge of the Federal High Court that made the order nor the date that the order was made and therefore urged stakeholders and the general public to disregard COSON’s claims.

Speaking further, Mr. Ezekude disclosed that following the suspension of COSON’s operating license by the Commission in April 2018, some members of COSON instituted an action in suit No.FHC/EN/CS/58/2018 at Enugu division of the Federal High Court against the Commission and some of its officials challenging the suspension of the operating license of COSON.

In a preliminary objection to the suit filed by the Commission, the court presided over by Justice Liman struck out the Commission as a party in that case on June 11, 2018. No order was made against the Commission.

Similarly, a case was instituted by some members of COSON purporting to act on behalf of the society in suit No. FHC/L/CS/6006/18 (Copyright Society of Nigeria & Ors Vs Efe Omoregbe & 7 Ors) at the Lagos division of the Federal High Court with the Commission listed as a defendant in the case.

The matter which is currently pending before Justice Seidu has been adjourned to September 26, 2018. No order has so far been made against the Commission in that case.

By virtue of the suspension which is still in force, the DG, reiterates that COSON is not entitled to carry out any functions of a Collecting Society; to wit; soliciting, negotiating for copyright license; or collecting royalties for and on behalf of owners of Copyright in Music and Sound Recordings; until otherwise determined.

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Again, Court Rules Against Multichoice Over Tariff Hike

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A judge, Nnamdi Dimgba, in Abuja has rejected an appeal by Multichoice Nigeria against an interim order prohibiting any increase in its DStv or GOtv subscription rates.

Multichoice Nigeria had on August 24 filed an appeal against the order of the Federal High Court, Abuja stopping it from increasing the subscription rates to its cable television services. The order was given on August 20.

The restraining order was issued in respect of Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/894/18 brought before the court by the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) in the light of the public outcry raised.

In his order, Mr Dimgba said the interim injunction restrains Multichoice Nigeria or its agents and representatives from “continuing the implementation of any increase in subscription rates or price review policy imposing increased charges and costs on the consumers pending the determination of the motion on notice.”

Besides, the court also restrained DSTV from “further carrying on or continuing any conduct or activity which interferes with or has effect of circumventing the outcome of ongoing investigations by the CPC into the company’s compliance or non-compliance with the February 16, 2016 order pending the determination of the motion on notice”.

When the appeal was made, the CPC explained that the order stopping implementation of the new tariffs will subsist till the appeal has been heard and ruling given by the court.

This means that the subscription tariffs for Dstv and Gotv ought not to have increased but consumers have been paying the increased tariffs since August.

Under the new price regime, the company said the Premium package subscribers pay about 7.5 per cent more (about N15,800) from about N14,700 every month.

Also, their Compact Plus customers still pay N10,650, from N9,900; Compact bouquets, N6,800, from N6,300, while the family package was increased from N3,800 to N4,000, with Access from N1,900 to N2,000

On Monday, during the court hearing, the judge also refused the application by MultiChoice to adjourn the matter indefinitely.

When asked of the measures taken to ensure Multichoice’s compliance, Babatunde Irukera, director general, CPC, said CPC still holds the position that consumers should be paying the old tariff.

“However, the council’s understanding is that Multichoice is not complying with that order of court so that’s why it was important for the court to agree to clarify the situation,” he said.

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