EXCLUSIVE: Iroko Partners Files Complaint Against Competitor Site For Alleged Trademark Infringement

lawsuit-costs

When you’re a company that has grown as quickly as Iroko Partners, the world’s largest distributor of Nigerian entertainment online which recently closed $10 million in funding and is reportedly worth over $30 million, it’s likely that some people might want to follow your path to success.

Well, it turns out that path has dragged a Ghana-based online movies site called IrokoTVmovies.com to an arbitration panel as Techloy has learned that on April 18, 2012, Iroko Partners filed a complaint against the company over its alleged trademark infringement with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center.

According to a 5-page document detailing the complaint and the Center’s panel decision on the alleged trademark infringement which was obtained by Techloy, it “orders that the disputed domain name, <irokotvmovies.com>, be transferred to the Complainant”, Iroko Partners.

Apparently, Iroko Partners provided details of a number of pending and approved trademark applications in Nigeria, the U.S. and for a CTM, although none of these appear to be registered.

However, Iroko Partners owns and operates the domain name, <irokotv.com> which was registered in September 2011 and launched in December 2011 as an online platform for Nigerian and Ghanian movies.

On the other hand, the disputed domain name <irokotvmovies.com> was registered on February 9, 2012 and before the complaint was filed, the website was said to have distributed a range of motion pictures and other video content, which included, amongst other things, Nigerian films, over which Iroko Partners claims exclusive rights. [The website is currently unavailable]

I reached out to Iroko Partners’ Global Communications Officer, Jessica Hope, who confirmed to me that Iroko Partners has indeed filed a complaint and legal proceedings are ongoing, but declined to comment further until the case has been resolved.

We have also contacted IrokoTVmovies.com for their comment and will update this post if we get any feedback.

Here’s the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center panel decision in full:


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  • http://twitter.com/iaboyeji Iyinoluwa Aboyeji

    I think its frightening that Jason is willing to be so litigious. Not a good thing for the Nigerian tech ecosystem.

  • Zee

    but its just the beginning they should be ready for a lot more, when an industry has a seeming low barrier to entry, there would be all sorts, watchout for MahoganyTV , eyeRockYourTV and every other derivative, this was my prediction from day one, its funny seeing it happen :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_T674E3DOHBIVYPZBUJCU57JOXI Frank

    If you ask me I think it’s fine. It gives the industry the desired validation it needs and would encourage more players which leads to healthy competition. That’s why everybody is fighting everybody all over the place. From Samsung to Apple to Microsoft to Nokia to Motorola.

  • Anonymous

    Its one thing for WIPO to give their ruling (its their opinion), its another thing to enforce it in Ghana. Also “jurisdiction” doesn’t seem to have been considered; If Iroko Partners don’t have any trademark in Ghana (and dont have even Trademark applications filed, which technically shouldn’t count until the TM is issued), then they really dont have a case in my opinion. They may have “filed”, and may even have the TM in Nigeria, USA, and UK, but those are NOT Ghana.

    I understand the “3 counts” which it seems 2 of 3 were shown in favor of Iroko according to that attached document, but the truth is, if the company in Ghana simply makes up their own Logo and makes their Logos to be totally different from Iroko’s, and then removes/removed every “Iroko exclusive content” from their website (basically getting their own original content), then that further puts them in a good position (right now I believe they are ONLY guilty of infringing on copyright/exclusively licensed Iroko movie content and nothing more).

    If they even want to further show that Iroko has no case (and not waste their time constant being called up for arbitration or litigation), all they need do is Forward that domain to another domain of their own and brand it (say PalmwineTV), and then host their own movie website there (on the PalmwineTV) and receive all the same traffic which would go to the IrokoTVmovies onto their own PalmwinTV site.

    Stuff like this happens all the time to entities in the USA and there is no case; parties/people in a country in say Asia will register a domain and forward it to any domain they want, or use it for anything they want INCLUDING stuff similar to what a company in the USA may be using it for; the thing is that the USA company does not have Jurisdiction (and neither does Trademark in the USA have jurisdiction) in the countries in Asia, EXCEPT they file for it in the Asian countries. The Guys in Ghana have “squatted” on that domain, and can use it to forward traffic to anywhere they want, and do anything they want with it, provided they are not in the same “jurisdictions” as the company which may have a trademark on a part of the domain name, then they are fine. Iroko can’t win this fight; they will be wasting their money if they keep fighting like this. They should simply focus on continuing to push their own main website(s), and people will not waste their time on the so called “IrokoTVmovies” website.

    (Disclaimer: Everything above is not legal advice, and are stated “allegedly”.)

  • Naija Whistle-Blower

    The case is not about jurisdiction though the internet is the jurisdiction and not Ghana and Iroko does not need to reach a court in Ghana for them to be able to enforce this judgement, all WIPO needs to do is direct the domain name registrar to return back the disputed “IrokoTV” domain back to Iroko. Nobody is stopping anybody from doing the same business Iroko does, but from this case its obvious that the Ghana company was riding on the goodwill of the “Iroko” name by registering their business with a domain name confusingly similar to the “Iroko” name. At WIPO, this is called bad faith registration of trademarks/name and its prohibited.

  • Undue

    gtbank.xxx, zenithbank.xxx

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