Comedian drags MTN to court for passing off his brand

MTN has been sued for passing off on the brand of Femi Edward

A Lagos based comedian Femi Edwards, trading under the name and style of Mayphem International has dragged mobile communications giant MTN Communications Limited before a Federal high court in Lagos South West Nigeria for alleged pass off of his works.

In a statement of claim filed before the court by a Lagos lawyer, Barrister Chuks Nwachukwu, of Indemnity Partners, it was alleged that, in 2009 Femi Edwards started a platform that promotes the comedy industry called ‘Komic RELOADED’.

The following year, he rebranded to ‘Comedy+’ and has maintained the brand ever since with sales outlets across the whole of the territory of Nigeria.

The plaintiff averred further that he has engaged in various comedy and general entertainment production, promotion and marketing activities under the Comedy+ brand over the years. By the reason of the aforesaid, the brands Comedy+ and Comedyplus have come to be associated with the plaintiff.

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On March 17, 2017, MTN launched a digital platform where it advertised the intent to continue to wrongfully produce, promote, market and pass off comedy shows and other entertainment not produced, promoted and marketed by the plaintiff as and for the comedy and other entertainment shows produced, promoted and marketed by the plaintiff.

The said act and conduct of the defendant were calculated to deceive and mislead the general public, Nwachukwu said.

The defendant was alleged to have profited from the passing off of the services and product to the excess of N112.5 billion as presently known to the plaintiff by search, discovery and inspection.

Consequently the plaintiff, while urging the court to restrain the defendant and its agents from producing and marketing the plaintiff’s brand, is also asking for damages.

However in a statement of defence filed before the court by Barrister Fred Onuobia the defendant while denying almost all the claims of the plaintiff, the defendant stated that the launch of MTN’s Video on demand service was not calculated to deceive or mislead the comedian or anybody and has not misled the public into believing that MTN’s services are being carried out with collaboration of the plaintiff.

It was further averred that MTN’s “Comedy+” is a video on demand service for comedy content provided to mobile device subscribers, in contrast, the plaintiff does not provide similar services.

MTN asserts that the plaintiff is not entitled to restrain MTN or its agents from using “Comedy+ in the lawful promotion of its trade, therefore the plaintiff is not entitled to any damages or an account of profits which have been made by MTN in the lawful prosecution of its business, in the use of MTN Comedy+ or at all.

Consequently, MTN urged the court to dismiss the suit with substantial cost.

The presiding judge Professor Chuka Obiozor has adjourned till 9 May 2018 for hearing.

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