2018 has been an amazing year with Intellectual property law being more prominent and noticed. This year we had a famous Nigerian author call out an International World bestselling author over a copyright of her book title; Nigerian singers raised Intellectual property alarms on parts of their songs being stolen and even YouTube introduced a new copyright match tool to stop plagiarism amongst other developments. In fact, IPTLC UI was formed in 2018. This is a proof that Intellectual property Law is here to stay and soon people would take their IP rights more seriously by seeking legal recourse. Here are our top ten IP trends in 2018 in no particular order.
- Apple V Samsung – the very first on this is list is the 7-year long Patent infringement lawsuit between Apple and Samsung revolving around some design and utility rights over basic functions of a smartphone like ‘tap to zoom’ and ‘home screen app grid’. In May 2018, a Californian jury had ordered Samsung to pay $539 million to Apple for copying these features and of course, a win for Patent rights and intellectual property law. After series of appeals back and forth, the two tech giants reached a private settlement.
- Falz “This is Nigeria” – the popular and well-loved Nigerian artiste Folarin Falana in May 2018 released a video titled “This is Nigeria”, which was quite similar in idea and expression to the American artiste Childish Gambino “This is America” video. This matter raised issues of copyright infringement and questions as to whether it qualifies as a parody or satire thereby exempting Falz from infringement. Sadly, there was no copyright lawsuit from Childish Gambino.
- Messi’s Name Trademark Win – Lionel Messi had tried to trademark his name with the European Union Office for Intellectual Property (EUIPO) in 2011 and the issue of similarity with “Massi”, a Spanish cycling brand came up. In April 2018, the European Union’s General Court which is the second highest court ruled that Messi was too known for confusion to arise and he was allowed to trademark his name.
- The Monkey Selfie Copyright battle – Earlier in 2015, PETA the popular animal rights group sued on behalf of a monkey called Naruto for copyright to selfies taking by the monkey in Indonesia. The court notably held in April 2018 that the copyright law doesn’t allow monkeys to file infringement lawsuit but only humans. Thus, animals do not have statutory standing to sue for copyright.
- Tekno Jogodo – In May 2018, the famous Nigerian artiste Tekno was dragged by the music duo Danfo Drivers for using elements of their song “Kpolongo” in his song “Jogodo” without their permission. Sadly, the parties settled privately and this interesting case did not get to be decided in a court of law.
- Apple’s loss of Steve Jobs trademark – The name ‘Steve Jobs’ is attributed to the founder of Apple but today the trademark is proudly owned by an Italian fashion company. How did this happen? In 2012, two Italian brothers “Vincenzo and Giacomo Barbato” realized apple had not trademarked the name and did as their company name. Their logo was also a “J” with a bite mark. Apple of course sued for trademark infringement and lost however and today Steve Jobs trademark is owned by the fashion company.
- MCSN wins COSON in court over artiste royalties – A landmark ruling in February 2018 by the Federal State High Court in Lagos State decided that the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria can operate as a Collective Management Organization for the management of royalties on behalf of Nigerian musicians. Previously the Copyright Society of Nigeria had sued for a declaration that this act was invalid on the grounds of Section 39(3) of the Copyright Act Cap C28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. The court however held that the MCSN has a right on CMO for musical works and sound recordings in Nigeria based on a valid directive from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
- Louboutin v Van Haren, the red-sole shoe trademark affair – the history of this trademark infringement case can be traced to 2010 when Christain Louboutin registered a trademark for footwears and high heeled shoes described as consisting ‘of the colour red applied to the sole of the shoe”. Aftwerwards a lawsuit was filed against Van Haren, a dutch company selling more affordable red sole high heeled shoes. On July 12 2018, the court of justice of the European union in Luxembourg held that fashion brands can obtain trademark protection for colour marks.
- Disney’s Hakuna Matata Trademark – the popular Hakuna Matata phrase which means “no worries” was trademarked by Disney in 1994 after the release of the hit movie Lion King. Controversy arose in December 2018 when a petition was raised to rescind the intellectual property claiming it promoted colonialism and exploitation of Africa. This petition had received 117,000 signatures by the 21st of December and its impact on the upcoming Lion King movie to be released in 2019 remain to be seen.
- Beyonce and Feyonce – while you may have heard of Beyonce, there in fact also exists a Feyonce. In 2015, there was an attempt to register Feyonce as a trademark for use in commerce on clothing and apparel and in 2016, Feyonce Inc began to use the marks despite a refusal by the USPTO due to similarities with Beyonce’s registered trademark “Beyonce”. Interestingly in September 2018, the US District judge refused a permanent injunction to stop Feyonce Inc from selling Feyonce product on disputes as to material facts on whether a rational consumer would mistakenly believe an affiliation between the two brands.
We expect more interesting Intellectual Property matters arising in 2019. A happy new year from the Intellectual property and Technology Law Club, University of Ibadan.