There is a war over a new film festival in Nollywood, as popular Nigerian actor Paul Obazele, the current President of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP) in Nigeria is being accused of the trademark infringement of Eko International Film Festival (EKOIFF) by the founder/festival director Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima and his partner Mr. Hope Obioma Opara, who is the President of EKOIFF. But Mr. Obazele has secured the support of the Lagos state government and other sponsors who have ignored the legal implications of being complicit in the trademark piracy of the most contested brand in Nigeria.
“What Paul Obazele, President and fellow members of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP) of Nigeria whose so called “AMP Eko International Film Festival”have done is an illegal act of trademark piracy of the duly registered Eko International Film Festival (EKOIFF) of Supple Communications Limited. I created Eko International Film Festival (EKOIFF) and registered it in August 2009 on the film festivals portal of Mr. Bruno Chatelin, our international media partner. Then I invited Mr. Hope Obioma Opara to be my partner and co-founder and he registered Eko International Film Festival (EKOIFF) and obtained the trademark as the property of his Supple Communications Limited in September 2009,” said Michael Chima.
He alleged that Mr. Obazele and his partners deliberately duplicated Eko International Film Festival (EKOIFF) as “AMP-Eko International Film Festival” which is illegal, and have been posing and posturing as the owners and using the film festival for professional manipulation, misrepresentation and misappropriation by collecting money and other forms of patronage from the Lagos State government, several people and companies since 2009 to date.
“They have been doing great damage to the reputation and patronage of Eko International Film Festival(EKOIFF), because they have put off our prospective contributors, donors, sponsors and others.”
The trademark theft of the brand Eko International Film Festival (EKOIFF) is now being duly addressed by the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The President of Eko international Film Festival, Hope Opara sent a petition to Ministry of Commerce and Industry over the infringement of the trade mark by Paul Obazele’s Royal Pictures registering a trade mark that is of close resemblance i.e. “Amp-Eko International Film Festival”.
The ministry summoned the two parties on the 15th of November 2010, for a presentation and hearing and 21st of November was set for a ruling to strike out “Amp-Eko International Film Festival” or allow it to run in line with Eko International Film Festival.
The ministry has established that Hope Opara’s Supple Communications Limited first registered Eko International Film Festival before Paul Obazele’s Royal Pictures Limited’s “Amp –Eko International Film Festival” which was an addition of an acronym (AMP) to the original registration of the film festival.
“Looking at the two registrations, it is crystal clear that; it is an infringement. Can you have “Abuja international film festival “and “Amp-Abuja international film festival”. Obviously every dummy should know that the brands are too close to be permitted legally because of the close resemblance,” said Mr. Hope Obioma Opara.
The ruling scheduled on the 21stof November, 2010 was disrupted by a mild drama of some security operatives from Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS) and claimed that the PRESIDENCY was interested in the matter. They confronted the registrar, Mrs. Jamila K. Ahmadu Saku and queried her on why there should be multiple registrations of a trademark in her ministry. She made it clear to them that her ministry does not do multiple registrations, but if any mistake was made on matters like this, they usually invite the two parties involved and after hearing they will rule on the matter and that the issue is being handled accordingly. Besides, each arm of the Federal Government has codes of conduct establishing it, so the SSS have theirs and commerce and industry as well. When they left, Mrs. Suka and her team addressed the two parties and asked to leave and return at the end of January, 2011.
The President of Eko International Film Festival, Mr. Hope Opara, said that he is skeptical about the purported visit of the SSS.
“Saying that the Presidency is interested in the matter sounds childish and arranged. This is a clear cut trade mark infringement and the rule of first in time must apply. How on earth will the Presidency condescend so low to get involved in an issue that is not within their purview when the ministry has been delegated to handle trademarks, patents & designs? Or was the visit intended to obstruct justice. I think someone is trying to play smart with this visit and the head of the State Security Service must hear this and if he actually sent some of boys to the ministry, let us know and the issue of the Presidency being interested in this matter must be established,” he said.
“One thing I am sure is that the ministry understands the ethics guiding their functions and operations which I know that any kind of duplication of Eko International Film Festival will be unacceptable,” Mr. Opara concluded.