Nigerian fashion brand, Ugo Monye Ltd (UML) has accused the producers of Coming 2 America of intellectual theft. The brand says its voguish Reale Design was reproduced without authorisation in the movie. The statement was released on Thursday, May 27 2021.
Debuted on March 4, 2021, Coming 2 America is known for showcasing beautifully crafted African designs and fabrics. Produced by Paramount Pictures, Eddie Murphy Productions, and Misher Film Productions, the movie features a wide range of breathtaking African attires. Amongst these artistic designs was an alleged imitation of the Reale Design.
What is the Reale Design?
The Reale Design features a kimono and less bulky version of the Nigerian traditional agbada. It confidently boasts embroidery on its front. It was first made popular when TV host Ebuka Obi-Uchendu wore it to the wedding of Banky W and Adesua Etomi.
The brand claims that the producers of the movie commissioned tailors in Nigeria to reproduce costumes that infringed on this trademarked design. This design has been sold by the brand to clients in the US, the UK, Canada, Ghana, Liberia, and South Africa, among others. It has also been showcased at various fashion weeks and runways.
What Ugo Monye is saying
In the statement released via its social media platforms, the UML brand expressed its displeasure with the development. The statement said that the brand is taking action to end and remedy the infringement. The brand also spoke out against cultural appropriation by non-Africans. It reads;
“It has come to our attention that our registered Reale Design was reproduced and featured in the movie without authorisation. We are currently taking action to ensure that this infringement ceases and is remedied,” the statement reads. “In addition to protecting our business and goodwill, we believe it is high time, we took a stand against cultural appropriation; non-Africans continuing to profit off African culture unauthorisedly.”
“All our brands and designs and creations are protected by the Copyright Act, Trademarks Act, and other Nigerian penal laws and International Treaties,” it added. “We hope that the movie players and costume designers do the right thing and stop taking advantage of the sweat and goodwill of a smaller brand, painstakingly built over years. UML will not hesitate to go to lengths to protect its brand and goodwill against infringers and other unauthorised users, foreign or local.”
Is there a Penalty for this Trademark Infringement?
In Nigeria, the law protects trademarked designs from infringement. When a fashion designer reports a case of infringement, the law courts can take one of many actions against the offender.
It can either issue an injunction to prohibit the exploiter from using the IP of the fashion designer or go through other routes. Some of these other routes include Delivery Up, Anton Pillar Order, and Damages.
In the case of Delivery up, all the monies made by the offender will be calculated and delivered up to the IP owner. For Damages, damages are paid if the trademark owner can calculate the loss he/she has suffered due to the infringement and such an amount would be levied against the infringing party.
Looking at it from the eye of the law, the movie producers can be penalised and may be liable to pay a huge sum of money to the UML brand for this act. As of now, ‘Coming 2 America’, is yet to respond to the allegations.
To find out more about the Intellectual Property Rights of fashion designers in Nigeria, read our article on Intellectual Property Rights and Fashion Law in Nigeria.