Folio Communications Limited, owners of Daily Times of Nigeria Plc, have threatened legal action against PREMIUM TIMES over the newspaper’s use of “TIMES” in its brand.
In a letter to the Managing Director/Editor in-Chief of PREMIUM TIMES, Dapo Olorunyomi, the solicitors to Folio Communications Limited, Elias Mordi & Co, cautioned the newspaper to desist from using the word “TIMES” in its brand name.
The threat came days after Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources, Deziani Alison-Madueke, obtained a court order restraining PREMIUM TIMES and 10 other individuals and organisations from reporting on the missing $20 million oil money.
Daily Times of Nigeria Plc is one of Nigeria’s oldest newspapers, incorporated on June 6, 1925 as Nigerian Printing & Publishing Company Limited.
The company, however, started publishing in Lagos, South-West Nigeria on June 1, 1926.
In the early 30s, it became a popular voice of the nationalist movement and was later bought over by the Daily Mirror Group of London in 1947.
During the 70s and ’80s, the paper became one of the most successful locally-owned businesses in Africa, but its fortunes started dwindling after the Nigerian government repurchased the firm in 1975.
The government later sold the company to Folio Communication Ltd on March 14, 2007, in a controversial process that was challenged in Court by D.S.V Limited, one of DTN’s shareholders which complained of “gross and illegal sale of company’s assets”.
However, on January 29, 2010, a Federal High Court in Lagos, nullified the acquisition of majority shares of DTN by Folio Communications Limited, and declared the action null, void and of no effect.
The trial judge, Okechukwu Okeke, had held that Folio Communications did not pay for the majority shares of DTN and that it was unlawful for the company to parade itself as a shareholder of DTN.
It also faulted the sale by Folio Communications Ltd, the assets of DTN to settle part of the loan secured Mr. Anosike.
One of the prized properties of the government-owned publishing firm that was sold by Mr. Anosike was a palatial building situated at Cold Harbour Lane in London, United Kingdom.
The court noted that it was worrisome that Folio Communications took a loan to pay for the shares of DTN and held that D.S.V Limited’s case had merit and therefore, granted the relieves sought.
While the case was being heard, the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, stormed the premises of the court in protest, accusing Mr. Anosike of lacking the capacity to run the company, and being only interested in its assets.
Folio Communications Limited appealed the judgment and in March 2013, after which the Court of Appeal ordered the retrial of the case.
Apart from the court action, the Anosike brothers were also tried by the Nigerian government for illegally selling Daily Times’ asset, and fraudulently receiving money from government agencies.
In its notice to PREMIUM TIMES, Folio Communications Ltd claimed that it is improper for the newspaper to use the word “TIMES” as a registered brand.
“Our client is the publisher of the Daily Times, Weekend Times, Sunday Times and Business Times amongst other newspapers and special publications,” Uche Amulu, a representative of Elias Mordi & Co wrote.
The legal firm said his client’s brand dominated the newspaper landscape not only in Nigeria but also across West Africa.
“In Nigeria, the word ‘Times’ when associated with any newspaper publication has come to have a secondary meaning as denoting our client’s publication by the reading public, and that is the extent of the goodwill our client enjoys in the word ‘Times’ as a matter of trade name,” a part of the notice reads.
“Your publication, ‘PREMIUM TIMES’ has a tendency of appropriating our client’s extant goodwill as already explained above and constitute actionable passing off. We, therefore, demand that you forthwith cease and desist from using the ‘TIMES’ in your future publications.”
The legal firm threatened that failure to adhere and comply with the demands of its client may result in a legal action.
PREMIUM TIMES newspaper was registered under relevant Nigerian laws in 2011 by Premium Times Services Limited, with a vision to among other things, strengthen Nigeria’s democracy, advance the socio-economic wellbeing and rights of the people, promote and enrich their cultural practices.
It also advocates for best practices, good governance, transparency and human rights, in line with the values expected of a modern democratic state.
PREMIUM TIMES’ Managing Editor, Musikilu Mojeed, said the matter has been referred to the company’s legal team.
Mr. Mojeed declined to make further comments on the issue, saying he was too busy “to respond to ludicrous claims by a party that might be fighting a proxy battle”.