Tanzania: EATV Seek to block TBC1’s use of Zee Comedi for programme name as copycat


As the tussle over "Ze Comedy" continues, the EATV has filed a lawsuit to block state-run station Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation from airing any programme using the service mark or words closely similar to it.

The move comes just five days after the seven comedians, who claim to be creators of the service mark, dragged EATV to court in a bid to obtain legal confirmation as rightful owners of the popular name before and after the expiry of their contract with EATV.

In the counter suit, EATV wants the court to restrain TBC1 from broadcasting any episode or programme using in any way the same characters or their names or other names closely similar to the names of the characters used by EATV in the programme "Ze Comedy".

The private station is also seeking a High Court order to obtain for destruction, material including advertising and promotional, featuring "Ze Comedy" or "Zee Komedy Production" or any other words closely similar to these. EATV now claims that the agreement between the seven comedians and TBC1 in May to produce and broadcast a programme known as "Zee Komedi" amounts to infringement of its service mark rights.

The station further alleges that the use of the name contravenes established principles of competition, and trade and service mark laws, which it says is unfair competition in intellectual property. EATV also maintains that since 2006 it created, produced, publicised and broadcasted "Ze Comedy", which has attracted many viewers in the whole of East Africa. According to EATV, 10 actors were initially recruited and formed into a comic group called "Ze Comedy".

But later the comedy was changed from being "a stand up" to a "studio based production", resulting in the scrapping of other actors to leave only three for the purpose of improving the programme. And to produce and coordinate the "Ze Comedy" programme, EATV says it used its producer and presenter Sekioni David. It further asserts that it has made extensive use of the service mark both in Tanzania and neighbouring countries, and accordingly established wide reputation and goodwill.

In addition, the station claims to have acquired goodwill through extensive investments in the advertisement, promotion, production and use of "Ze Comedy". EATV also alleges that TBC1 entered into a contract with Ze Comedy Production, a group that did not exist. It claims that the group had not been registered with the Business Registration and Licencing Authority (Brela), as required by the law of Tanzania. It says of the group: " neither does it have legal capacity to contract nor does it have a business licence or valid permit to perform its part of the agreement to produce a television program known as Zee Komedi."

On the other side, the seven comedians, Isaya Mwakilasa, Mujuni Sylivery, Lucas Muhuvile, Emanuel Mgaya, Alex Chalamila, Joseph Shamba and Sekioni David want the court to order EATV to pay them Sh200 million in damages. The tussle over the use of the name "Ze Comedy" started after the seven signed a new contract with TBC1 earlier in May at the expiry of their contract with EATV.

Meanwhile, the High Court will next Wednesday deliver a ruling on a preliminary objection in which EATV, the Registrar of Trade and Service Mark and the Copyright Society of Tanzania have appealed against a suit by the seven comedians on grounds that there was no cause of action and that an affidavit by the respondents was defective. The case came for hearing last week but Lady Justice Catherine Oriyo agreed with parties to file their arguments by way of a written submission.

The Citizen (Dar es Salaam) 17 July 2008