Name Trademark: The Omotola Boss Move

Omosexy was up to something very profitable in the days post-Valentine. Imagine being in Lagos on Sunday, and booking the next flight to Garki, Abuja on Monday, laced with the regular Cash Madam conventionalities. Who would blame her? She understands more than most of us that registering for anything online in Nigeria asides from JAMB is the cheapest way to salty tears.

Signed, sealed, delivered! Tuesday morning, Instagram must hear of this. She pumps up three IG posts. The first signals that something is about to hit us. The next, something more of the aspire to misfire vibe (trust Nigerians to load the comments with love, fire, and “do giveaway”). And finally, the big deal – Dr. Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde announces that she has trademarked the name “Omotola.”

Photo Credit: @spotlightpi

In split seconds, fans by the name Omotola were scared for themselves. And you could see them wondering in the comments sections what this development meant for their future. Change of name? New WAEC Certificates? Three court affidavits and five passport photographs, again? Those boyfriends who had promised their lovers that any other Omotola was a counterfeit were in the mud too. Another own goal against the patriarchy. Sigh.

There have been so many questions about what this novel event means for trademark law and names in Nigeria. We’re here to break down the legalese for the average Nigerian, student or otherwise.

So, here’s it.

Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, MFR recently registered a trademark for her first name. However, the Trademark Database we could access didn’t have info beyond December 2020 (COVID-19 clogging the updates, apparently. Asides from this inefficiency, the Nigerian government is doing well). But from the little we can glean from the Nollywood actress, the trademark for “Omotola” falls under Class 41.

Now, there’s a lot to say here. And we’ll leave no one behind. Trademarks are intellectual property assets that cover the exclusive rights of a person or entity to a design, symbol, phrase, or word. Generally, trademarks exist with the intention of connecting the marks to a brand for commercial purposes.

That way, instead of a fairly-bitten apple reminding you of Adam and Eve, you’d rather imagine what to expect from the iPhone 13. And when someone mentions the name “IBM,” you’ll think of one of the world’s largest tech companies instead of how you couldn’t remember the full meaning during Primary 6 common entrance (you still can’t remember the full meaning, yeah? No hard feelings, just make sure you take Junior to a secondary school where they teach Computer).

Nowhere in the world does trademarks come on a platter of gold. There are a couple or more requirements to fulfil. First, it must be distinctive. A trademark shouldn’t expressly describe its brand. For instance, Screens can’t be a trademarked name for a company that produces TVs and Monitors.

In addition, the trademark must be used in commerce. There must be a use for the name either for a product or a service rendered.

Nigerian laws also prevent you from registering a mark that runs contrary to public policy and morality. If your guess is good as mine, you probably can’t trademark a brand name that speaks ill of cattle and bandits since they run contrary to Nigeria’s public policy. Follow peace with every of God’s creation, especially animals.

Moving on, trademark have classes. According to a classification system called the Nice International System of Classification, you can register your trademark in a specific group or area of commerce. There are 45 of them, ranging from chemical goods to legal services.

Back to your WCW. Her trademarked name actually is a service mark. That’s because it falls under Class 41 which covers educational and training services, entertainment, recreational, cultural, literary, and sporting services. It’s plenty, innit?

Well, the implication of this action is that no one can engage in commercial activity in any of these industries. By extension, you can’t name a movie by a title having any bearing to “Omotola.” You can’t have a stage name related to “Omotola.” Neither can a media house, educational or cultural agency go by the name “Omotola” except they are connected to Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, that is.

You can’t even own a domain name with the trademarked identity; that will amount to cybersquatting. But there’s no problem if your birth certificate carries Omotola; we doubt you are capable of creating a confusion with the famous actress, in form and in substance.

Omotola is probably the first Nigerian celebrity to trademark her name, as far as we know. In the US, there’s a long list of professional entertainers who’ve got their names trademark – Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, Kylie Jenner, Beyonce, Jay-Z and the entire Carter family. This action makes big business sense because entertainers can prevent everyone else from using it across these industries. For Omotola, she can wake up one morning and decide to open Omotola Film Studios or Omotola Tutorial Centre or even Omotola Zoo & Museum. She will still be within her limits.

Photo Credit: @photokulture

Can you trademark your own name?

We must clarify here that not everyone can get away with Omotola’s actions. The primary reason we believe her name was granted was based on the name’s popularity and “uniqueness.” Any random mention of the name Omotola in Nigeria would naturally create an impression of the actress. So, it makes her trademark application for the name quite easy.

By the way, we think Omosexy would’ve made much more sense as it is more unique. Apparently, the actress claimed in an Instagram comment to her post that trademarking “Omosexy” is in the works but according to her, “the Nigerian Govt is scared of an Omosexy name not sure why.”

But for you, Tunde, your name is scattered all over the place; everybody who knows you has three other “Tundes” in their life (if we add Tunde Ednut, that makes four, lol). The same goes for Michael, Favour, Amaka, Ahmed, and especially Ife (there’s an Ife within 100 metres of your location, we can bet our life savings). No one can reasonably connect the name exclusively to you.

What’s more? Your name is not even connected to anything capable of bringing in commercial value (there are a lot of us on this table, so hold back those tears).

However, once your name gains sufficient popularity in relation to a service or becomes attached to a brand, you can go ahead to trademark your name. Until then, keep telling people to call you Shegz or BisolaBaby and be wondering why you haven’t blown.

Disclaimer: This is not intended to serve as legal advice. Kindly contact a qualified legal professional for advice. Also, the use of names and events are purely fictional and not targeted at specific persons.

P.S. And yeah, we didn’t see Omotola travel from Lagos to Abuja but story no dey sweet without jara.

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