Chukwuemeka Ejekwu, commonly known as Oga Sabinus, a prominent comedian and skit maker, has threatened to sue Friesland Foods, the makers of the Peak milk brand, and UAC Foods, the makers of the sausage roll—Gala. He alleged that the two companies infringed on his trademark and image. His claims are simply regarded as intellectual property infringement.
Intellectual property theft, sometimes known as IP theft, is the stealing of people’s or firms’ ideas, innovations, and creative expressions (i.e., their IP), which causes serious economic damage, loss of competitive edge, goodwill, and decreased corporate growth.
The skit creator is suing Friesland for N1 billion in compensation and damages for using the catchphrase, “something hooge,” in an advertisement on its social media profile and UAC for N100 million for using his image in one of its ad campaigns.
Is Sabinus strictly speaking entitled to compensation for the use of his registered trademark, something hooge, with filing number: NG/TM/O/2021/48316? And Sabinus’s calculating position in a photograph?
Trademark protection is organized into classes. Classes 1–34 deal with the protection of various items. Classes 35-45 deal with various services. To obtain trademark protection, one must first register his goods or services in any of the classes. Only those classes that are protected by registered marks. Only when a similar infringing commodity or service infringes on that mark can the proprietor (owner) seek damages or restitution.
This issue has sparked debate and raised IP awareness among Nigerians. It is not uncommon for a Nigerian to conduct business without even registering his business name or firm, let alone protecting his trademarks (s). It is also fairly uncommon for registered companies or business names to assume IP protection as a result of corporate protection.
The Sabinus acceptance letter revealed that the trademark was only registered under Class 36. Insurance, financial services, real estate agency services, building society services, banking, stockbroking, financial services provided over the Internet, the issuance of value tokens in connection with bonus and loyalty schemes, and the provision of financial information are all covered by Class 36. This means that Sabinus’ allegation of “something hooge” trademark infringement will be successful only if it was used in the same area of business for which it was registered. This is most likely a good defense for Friesland Foods.
If your mark was utilized in the same line of business mentioned in the class in which the trademark was registered, then you may claim infringement. The only way to avoid this is to register in all of the trademark classes.
Friesland Foods manufactures food or dairy products. From my perspective, using the words “Something Hooge” in the title of a product does not constitute an infringement. Food goods are not included in class 36.
It would have been a different story if a bank or a real estate company had advertised with the tagline “Something Hooge.”
Given that he is a comedian, one would think he would have registered it in the category of entertainment.
Concerning the claimed copyright violation of his image, a cartoon character portrayed cannot be said to be his true image.
Making and using a caricature of a person is an exception to copyright infringement under fair use. The “parody or pastiche rule of exception” is what it’s termed.
Given the foregoing, Sabinus cannot allege copyright infringement because the law allows for the use of parody or caricature as exceptions to copyright infringement.