“Joromi” – Testing Nigeria IP Laws By Simi and Victor Uwaifo

“Joromi” – Testing Nigeria IP Laws By Simi and Victor Uwaifo

Since the author shared his piece on Sir Victor Uwaifo taking Simi, a musician, to court, demanding compensation for trademark infringement on “Joromi”, an entertainment character he created, the comments in the community are largely that (1) Mr. Uwaifo should go and sit down, or (2) the author did not “understand” trademark laws.

The entire conversation above developed as a result of a recent fifty million naira law suit filed by Sir Victor Uwaifo on the award winning female musician Simi. Simi is being sued for N50 million as damages for using the word ‘Joromi’ in her song and as the title of one of her tracks. Remember ‘Joromi’ was also the title  Uwaifo gave to his 1979 global hit.

I think the problem here is the fact that her song bears the same title as Uwaifo’s. So if a foreigner walks into a store and asks for Joromi, he or she could be given Simi’s even though it may not be what the person had in mind. These are fundamental issues every musician should know, but is frequently violated by a good number of artistes we have today probably because there have been no consequences for neglecting  such rules.

I have tried to challenge the #2 group, but so far I am unable to get anything the author did not understand. Personally, my understanding is that if I name a toy Elmo, a movie Spider-Man, Godfather, or simply Living in Bondage, a certain level of infringement may be happening. Also, if I launch a spice and call it Maggi or Royco, I may be causing confusion in the market. Also, if I name a song Thriller (originally controlled by Michael Jackson estate), I may be creating fiction in this world, and liable to damages.

Sure, Nigeria does not care. But while we have not followed up, for years, on protecting certain creatives, nothing stops us waking up today. Mr. Uwaifo may be saying – I might not have built a house protected by physical security guards, but I built an “intellectual property estate” on “Joromi” and will use legal guards to protect it. 

Lawyers here – what is it that the author did not understand in the piece? I want to believe that Uwaifo’s legal team is not stupid for asking for this N50 million compensation. Are we saying another bank can launch tomorrow and call itself Union Bank? Even if Joromi is a common word, Uwaifo was the first that used it as a song title. Possibly, as a lay man, Nigeria’s trademark law will allow him to trademark it for music title which means only him can use it in Nigeria for a music title.

Yet, I will need those that understand IP (intellectual property) matters to educate us here within the context of Nigerian law. Simply, I want this question answered: can any musician name his/her album or song title without considerations of existing titles, and making sure customers are not confused?

Copyrights Law in Nigeria – The Sir Victor Uwaifo’s Suit Against Simi on ‘Joromi’

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