Timbuktu's Trademark 'Yoruba'
It could have been a coincidence but the timing was perfect. I was teaching the intellectual property module at the university when the news broke. The next day, I used it as case study in my class. At the beginning, I did not let my student know, I was a member of the Yoruba ethnic group. They were only aware that I'm Nigerian. I wanted us to have an un-biased engagement on the matter and it worked. LOL.
Timbuktu, a UK organization trademark the word "Yoruba". The Yoruba people discovered via a proxy who wanted to do the same, as a rightful member of the Yoruba community, hence an up-rising by the Yoruba people who considered it "cultural appropriation". It is one of those trado-intellectual property that will notably, be case-studied for some time. Here, is the news by CNN
Intellectual properties are asset to an any entity. As such, entities have a claim to it, if approved by the commission in charge. It can a be a trademark, patent or copywrite. All three can be easily misunderstood. There are global laws guiding the implementation of this rights as well as regional and country framework for the same. And just like I told my student, it is important to be well aware so as to ascertain one's rights or claim infringements.
The Yoruba community felt offended but I was not, even as a Yoruba man. But I had one major question. "Who approved the application by Timbuktu?" Follow by this question. "What processed was conducted by the copywrite/trade mark commission before the approval was granted?" Because, Timbuktu seemed to have gone though the appropriate channel/requirement to acquire the asset.
I told my students, the credible way out, was to for Timbuktu to conduct a market demography analysis to access the potential impact, should they decide not to relinquish their hold on the asset. They also need to know how important is the asset " Yoruba" to the entity as a whole. A student asked, what if the Yoruba people boycott Timbuktu. Then, I asked the student, how are you sure Yoruba people are a target/segment market for Timbuktu? LOL. And what if Yoruba means something else in another language, which is the one they trademark? Eventually, it all boils down to business nuances and corporate law interpretations.
Why is this important?
Business can be complicated in the wake of revolving business legal environment. I would assumed out of ignorance or perhaps, the world has become more sensitive than it used to be because, I read that Timbuktu did the same word "Swahili" as well. There are laws guiding every business activities and as a business person, it is important to be aware of this laws. The same is applicable to UK commission who should show due diligence before such approval.
If this asset was a worthy operational asset to Timbuktu's operation, it could be a complicated sell to ask them to relinquish their hold on it, leaving 40m+ Yoruba community pitched as sworn enemy to an innocent business model. Subject to further confirmation, I have just red that the Timbuktu team has relinquished their rights to the trademark and also issued an apology to that affect.
I wasn't offended as a Yoruba man, but it's a strategic/good move by Timbuktu. And on behalf of pissed Yoruba community "apology accepted".