By: Omosola Ogunleye
Can intellectual property actually help third world countries? When people normally think of Intellectual property, they often associate it with venture capitalism and tech companies focused on making a profit and thus increasing wealth. However, what if IP could be used to help developing countries improve both their legal and economic infrastructure. According to recent studies, intellectual property could drive up the progress of developing countries, especially those in Africa.
With an emerging tech industry, otherwise known as Yabacon Valley, Nigeria has great potential to outgrow its third world country status. Along with Nigeria’s tech industry, its Nollywood industry is one of the largest movie industries in the world. However, with weak IP laws along based on a feeble legal infrastructure, economic and technological progress cannot continue. IP legal safeguards are so weak that many Nigerians who desire to have businesses prosperity free of infringement have chosen to utilize other countries with stronger IP safeguards. This presents a problem for Nigeria’s economy because it adds to the brain drain epidemic the country has experienced for decades.
Yabacon stands to make great potential to the extent that Nigeria has become the first country to produce Africa’s first own smartphone, called Afrione; the phone which has been competing with the popular Chinese smartphone, Tecno. Along with its very own smartphone, there has been a surge in Nigerian start-ups despite being concentrated in Lagos, Nigeria. These start-ups have shown great promise, to the extent that many Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs and even Tech CEO’s like Mark Zuckerberg have made early investments! Zuckerberg for an example has already invested $24 Million in Yacabon Valley business alone.
Nigeria and other developing countries in Africa who have begun to benefit from the advantages continue to have convincing support that intellectual property can be a strong social justice tool for communities of color. Therefore it is vital that minority groups continue to instill the importance of protecting the integrity and value of their work and art because it is what truly sets us a part from the rest.
By: Jon'mel Davenport
For the first time in history, a Chinese court awarded $1.5 million dollars in damages and legal costs as a trademark infringement award. Three Chinese shoemakers infringed upon the American sportswear company New Balance. They sold shoes featuring the famous slanting “N” logo.
This victory was huge as China has a long history of not protecting foreign brands. Although the size of this ruling was small by international standards, this award gives hope to companies that their marks will be protected in the future.
New Balance has been an American sportswear staple since 1906. They were founded by a British immigrant in Boston, Massachusetts where there headquarters still remain. Beginning as a company focusing on arch supports, they have blossomed into a major sneaker manufacturer.
The three defendants produced shoes under the brand names, “New Boom” by Zheng Chaozhong, “New Barlun” by Xin Ping Heng Sporting Goods Limited Company, and “New Bunren” by Bo Si Da Ke Trading Limited. The court ruled that these shoemakers were successful in seizing market share from New Balance and greatly damaging the reputation of New Balance. Their usage of the mark greatly confused large numbers of consumers.
In China, trademarks are generally awarded to the first company to file for them. The companies need not have a reason for filing for the mark. After many years the Chinese government is finally solving the problem of privacy. In New Balances case, all of the infringing companies were trademarked.
In the past New Balance has lost many battles in trying to protect their mark in China. In April 2015 they were fined 16 million dollars after they lost a lawsuit to a man who had registered the trademark for the Chinese name of New Balance.
In April they were also awarded $500,000 after it was discovered that New Bunren also translates to New Balance in Chinese. Despite the past losses they’ve faced since 1995, this recent ruling has renewed
This new $1.5 million ruling stems from new Chinese Legislation. In 2014 a new trademark law passed that allowed for the minimum trademark infringement award to be 450,000. It is said that the recent uptick in technology being created in China has inspired this change in legislation. They are eager to have stronger laws in order to protect the accumulating value of their intellectual property industry. For
By: Abbiegail Francis
In June 2017, A Mississippi business owner, Curtis Bordenave, filed a trademark application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) for use of a racial slur-- the "N" word. Mr. Bordenave stated that "the goal behind the trademark filing is not to be offensive, but to change people's perception and meaning of the word." Additionally, he asserts that by giving the word a clear new definition, and a stronger more positive meaning-- it becomes more difficult for people to use it destructively. Bordenave's plan is to use the trademark for various products including games, cosmetics, mobile apps, and apparel. He believes that although offensive to some, the word is thought to have marketing potential because of its use in popular culture.
Trademark filings of this nature have only recently been permitted due to a Supreme Court ruling regarding the Slants. The Slants is an Asian American band that filed a trademark application to protect their name but were granted a refusal because the trademark office found it to be offensive. The Supreme Court held that the federal government doesn't have the authority to prevent people from trademarking offensive names.
Similarly, Steven Maynard has filed an application for a version of the swastika to "make sure that trademark rights doesn't fall into the wrong hands."
Personally, I believe this is distinguishable from the case of the Slants because they are a musical group who uses the term to identify their services. In this instance, we have a single individual who wants to capitalize on a generic word. Furthermore, it can be argued that his intended use falls under the guise of being merely descriptive.