February 24, 2015 — Earlier this month, the Trademarks Registry in Nigeria released a new journal containing trademark applications filed online using its e-filing portal. Chances are, if you are an IP lawyer in Nigeria, you may still be browsing through the journal for marks you filed on behalf of your clients or marks you seek to oppose their registration. Every once in awhile at NLIPW, we stumble upon trademarks that become conversation starters, topics of discussion for our staff, or hint that some really interesting products are on the drawing board. Below are a few:
In March 2013, during an interview with one of the television stations in Nigeria, Channels TV, the ex Lagos State Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp. (NSCDC), Mr. Obafaiye Shem had mentioned that a website had been opened in the name of his organization by some fraudulent persons, to defraud unsuspecting job seekers but that it had been shut down. As a result of his statement, the interviewers asked him to disclose the correct website for his organization. Rather than saying he wasn’t sure of the exact address, he evaded the question and when pressed by the interviewers, the famous ‘MY OGA AT THE TOP’ expression made its appearance into ‘Nigeria’s lexicon’ and quickly became one of the most commonly used phrases in Nigeria today and the topic of many jokes and parody.
“I cannot categorically tell you one now, but the one we are going to make use of, I am not the one that will create it. The one we are going to make use of, is going to remain known by MY OGA AT THE TOP.”…Mr. Obafaiye Shem, Interview with Channels TV, Sunrise Daily Segment
In December 2013, the Trademarks Registry published an application for the trademark ‘MY OGA AT THE TOP‘ in Trademarks, Patents and Designs Journal Vol. 3 No. 1 of December 31, 2013. The application was filed by a Nigerian company, Ajojib JV Limited, and entertainment, provision of training and cultural activities in Class 41.
For many Nigerians, when we hear the word “Zobo” we immediately think of a beverage made from dried Roselle plant flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa) because In the Hausa language, Zobo refers to Hibiscus sabdariffa plants. As a beverage, zobo remains a popular local drink and has been in circulation in Nigeria for many years.
In 2014, Nigerian Breweries Plc., one of the largest brewing companies in Nigeria and makers of Star Lager beer, lodged an application to register “Zobo” at the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry in Abuja, Nigeria. The company, which is an affiliate of Heineken, filed the application to cover “beers mineral and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic drinks; fruit drinks and fruit juices; syrups and other preparations for making beverages” in Class 32 and “Alcoholic beverages (except beers)” in Class 33. As expected by many IP lawyers, the Trademarks Registry refused the application on grounds that “Zobo” is generic in the Class 32 and 33 and therefore cannot stand on its own.
On April 11, 2014, Muritala Global Ventures Limited, a company registered in Nigeria, lodged an application to register the mark “RITE AID” at the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry in Nigeria. The interesting fact about this filing is that the application covers pharmaceuticals in Class 5. For those who are not aware, RITE AID is a fortune 500 company and one of the largest drugstore chain in the United States.
On February 2, 2015, the Trademarks Registry in Nigeria advertised “RITE AID” in its Online Journal Vol. 2 No. 2, with a deadline for opposition being April 1, 2015. It would be interesting to see if this trademark is opposed by Name Rite, L.L.C.
In December 2012, electronics giants Apple Inc. applied to register the trademark SIRI in Class 45 at the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry in Abuja, Nigeria. The application was accepted and published in Trademarks, Patents and Designs Journal Vol. 3 No. 1 of December 31, 2013. In the same year, Apple also lodged separate applications to register “Macbook”, “Passbook”, “Earpods” and “Flyover” at the Registry in Abuja, Nigeria. What is interesting about the SIRI trademark is that at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Apple had applied to register the Siri logo — a purple, old school microphone in a silver circle — for “online social networking services in Class 45 and to show those services, Apple’s specimen showed Siri being used to access Facebook. The USPTO examiner refused the application, on grounds that the specimen submitted by Apple only showed that Facebook was a provider of the social network services, not Apple.
In it’s aim to revolutionize the internet, Google Inc. initiated Project Loon. The aim of the project is to provide a practical way (using a large fleet of hot air balloons) for billions of people to get Internet access, especially in poor and unconnected parts of the world.
Google first tested the balloons in New Zealand in June 2013 by dispatching 30 high-flying balloons equipped with the necessary Internet-servicing technology. According to Google the balloons have the capacity to deliver widespread economic and social benefits by bringing Internet access to about 4.3 billion people (60 percent of the world’s people who do not have internet).
In January 2013, Google lodged an application to register “Loon” at the Trademarks, Patents, and Designs Registry in Abuja. The application was filed under telecommunication services in international Class 38. Google has registered the trademark in several countries including the United States, Singapore and Mauritius, with a pending application in Australia.
This article is intended to provide general information about the subject matter. Professional legal advice should be sought about specific circumstances.