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Etisalat in N2billion Copyright infringement mess

Etisalat in N2billion Copyright infringement mess

A mobile finance technology firm, V-Exchange Limited, has accused mobile network service provider Etisalat of alleged copyright infringement.

The company is, therefore, demanding N2 billion from the telco as compensation for the alleged infringement on its intellectual property.

But Etisalat Nigeria has denied any infringement on the intellectual property of V-Exchange Limited.

V-Exchange, which specialises in providing instant finance solutions to individuals and corporate entities via intelligent data-driven platform, claimed that they developed ‘Kwik Cash’ loan service which Etisalat recently offered to its customers, alleging that the mobile service provider imitated the solution.

Addressing a press conference in Lagos, co-founder of V-Exchange Samuel Ajiboyede claimed that last November 23, he, with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mrs. Kemi Ayinde met with representatives of Etisalat over the company’s product for partnership for mutual benefit.

Ajiboyede said at the meeting, the loan service product was showcased to Etisalat officials who asked to be furnished with more details, which V-Exchange supplied.

Since they already obtained the patent for the product, he claimed that Etisalat officials advised them to obtain the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) Short Code being the only thing remaining for a deal to be sealed between the two entities.

Ajiboyede stated that Etisalat, however, declined its request for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enable his company acquire a Value Added Service (VAS) licence to get the Short Code approval from NCC, and lending licence.

He said the deal was already being closed with a financial institution that would take charge of the lending part of the product when it heard that Etisalat had launched the instant loan service without its knowledge and approval.

In a letter written through its lawyer, Mr Monday Ubani of the law firm of Ubani and Co, to the Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Nigeria, dated January 10, 2017,  V-Exchange is demanding N2 billion as compensation for the alleged copyright infringement and N2 million as account profit.

‘’ Our client has tested your product on several customers of your company and confirmed that the said product was the exact product for which it has exclusive right

‘’That this abysmal unlawful conduct of your company as highlighted above has infringed our client’s products for which copyright subsisted despite the caveat by known owners being ‘our client’ that no part of this shall be reproduced or copied in any material form with its prior authorisation.

‘’Moreover, it is arguable that the product reproduced in writing by your company was exact replica of our client’s products which were earlier in time protected by the copyright law.

“In conclusion, let it be stated that aside the civil action for infringement of our client’s copyright, we shall be constrained to simultaneously instigate and initiate a criminal action with its attendant legal consequences against your company for exploiting our client’s copyright as provided by the act.

“Therefore your company is hereby warned very sternly to refrain forthwith from further infringement of our client’s by itself or through its agents or privies and monetary restitution in the sums demanded above of its unlawful exploitation of our client’s products which copyright subsisted to mitigate the loss thus far.”

Etisalat, however, denied any infringement on V-Exchange’s purported patent and insisted it cannot pay compensation for an infringement that does not exist.

A letter signed by Etisalat Head, Legal Operations and Litigation, Vincent Eromosele and Manager, Legal Services, Chimeka Garricks, dated February 21, this year, acknowledged having had discussion with V-Exchange over its product but denied infringement of any patent belonging to the firm.

Etisalat claimed that ‘KwikCash’ is owned and operated by a licensed financial institution and that it followed due process in acquiring the right to use the product on its network. “The institution had secured all relevant approvals from the NCC and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and had even commenced pilot launch of the ‘KwickCash’ service on Etisalat Nigeria’s platform long before Etisalat Nigeria received V-Exchange’s letter (dated October 27, 2016) and subsequently met with V-Exchange (on November 23, 2016),” the telco added.

The mobile network provider further claimed that KwickCash’ service was already in existence and operational prior to its meeting with V-Exchange and that it was already working with a CBN licensed financial company which was at a pilot stage to offer micro cash loans to its interested subscribers.

“Etisalat Nigeria denies the allegation that it infringed V-Exchange purported patent over the products and is of the view that the claims made by V-Exchange are unfounded and baseless. Etisalat Nigeria is therefore unable to accede to V-Exchange’s demand for compensation of N2billion and an account for profit of N2million or any sum at all for the alleged infringement of your client’s purported patent,” it added

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