Explainer: What Sabinus’ lawsuit means for creators and their intellectual property

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Sabinus Intellectual Property

Popular Instagram comedian, Chukwuemeka Ejekwu, more commonly known as Oga Sabinus plans to take Friesland and UAC Foods, the companies that make Peak Milk and Gala Sausage Roll respectively, to court over the use of his Intellectual Property (IP).

On May 24, Peak Milk used ‘Something Hooge’, a phrase popularized by Mr Funny, in one of their social media posts.

Gala also used a cartoon-like image of him in a post on May 23.

What are Sabinus and his team saying?

The skit maker who was announced the winner of the Best Online Social Content Creator award at the 2022 AMVCA, has threatened to slam Friesland and UAC Foods with a ₦1 billion and ₦100 million lawsuit respectively for the unauthorized usage of his trademark and likeness in their marketing materials.

Through his lawyer, Stanley Alieke, Sabinus noted that the phrase was his registered trademark and in the legal notice threatened a lawsuit if the brand failed to comply within two weeks from the receipt of the legal notice.

A part of the pre-suit notice to Friesland dated May 27 read, “It will interest you to know that the phrase ‘something hooge’, which was popularized by our client, has been trademarked and legally reserved as his intellectual property by the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment.”

Another notice to UAC Foods dated May 25 read, “Your company UAC Food Ltd. has been using the brand picture and other intellectual properties of Sabinus to make adverts for your Gala sausage roll without the consent or authorization of our clients.” 

What does this mean for creators and their IP?

This brings much-needed awareness to the topic of intellectual property of digital creators and creatives in the country and how seriously we treat topics like these. It also serves as a reminder to creators and personal brands to take their intellectual property seriously by protecting their trade symbols through the country’s legal framework. 

Intellectual property is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; symbols, names, and images used in commerce. Because intellectual property is intangible people often do not realize that it is protected by law and that intellectual property theft is a crime.

How the public is reacting.

When Sabinus and his team came out with the pre-suit notices, many Nigerians were surprised that the comedian had taken such a smart move by silently trademarking the Something Hooge’ phrase. Although some people have expressed concerns about the strength of his argument, the notices in circulation show that the mark was registered in Class 36, which is the class for financial Services and Real Estate. There’s a question to be asked on whether that was the most appropriate category 

However this plays out, there’s an important lesson to be gleaned. As long as you value your brand and its image, do not sleep on your intellectual property rights and assets.