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MTN in N112.5b copyright infringement suit over wrongful use of brand


How firm’s acquisition of Visafone will aid industry’s growth
A content producer who specialises in events management, production, promotion and marketing with focus on comedy, Femi Edwards, has taken MTN Nigeria Limited to a Federal High Court in Lagos for alleged wrongful use of his brand.He is demanding that the telecommunications giant should account for the N112.5 billion it allegedly generated from the venture.

The plaintiff alleged that MTN was illegally using his comedy content without recourse to him, and generating huge revenues from the said copyright infringement.Edwards, who is trading under 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 in the industry.

The plaintiff, in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/18/18, stated that he rebranded to Comedy+ the following year, adding that he had been maintaining the brand ever since with sales outlets across the country. Giving details of how the figure was arrived at, he said Comedy+ was passed off by MTN to its 59 million subscribers, while it made N112.5 billion from its subscription price list at an estimated rate of N250 per month and 50 million subscribers in nine months from March to December 2017. He explained that he wrote to MTN through his lawyer on September 12, 2017 complaining of the development and that the firm replied on September 18, 2017 promising to look into the matter.

After waiting for some time without response, the plaintiff said he wrote again to the firm, while MTN responded on October 23, 2017 denying any liability, but not its use of the brand name.However, in the suit filed by his counsel, Chuks Nwachukwu, he is seeking an order restraining MTN or its agents from producing, promoting or marketing under Comedy+ any comedy related to or other entertainment shows or content not produced, promoted or marketed by the plaintiff or with his collaboration.

Also, the plaintiff wants an injunction mandating MTN to render account of profits and receipts so far made using Comedy+, as well as damages for the wrongful use of the brand.The matter has been assigned to Justice Chuka Obiozor who fixed hearing of an application for interlocutory injunction in the suit against MTN for October 29, 2018.

Meanwhile, stakeholders in the telecommunications industry believe that MTN’s move to acquire the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operator, Visafone, holds growth potential for the industry.They argued that the acquisition would help to facilitate Federal Government’s plan of meeting 30 per cent broadband target, as the license would enable MTN to navigate the hinterlands where telephony services are yet to reach in the country. Under the auspices of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), there would be a public forum to discuss the matter today in Abuja, whether the license of Visafone should be transferred to MTN or not.

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