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Wednesday, April 27, 2011



In the field of trademark, franchise, celebrity and publicity rights law and practices a person’s unique likeness, image, status, and creative works can be effectively leveraged for economic returns. An artist possess vast intellectual property rights in his creative works.

The value and longevity attached to a trade mark and brand is influenced greatly by the usage and perception that such brand, trademark and franchise exudes. The usage of a trademark, brand, franchise and other identity IP rights has the potential of devaluing its IP assets.
The entertainment and film industry in Nigeria, known as Nollywood, has produced celebrities and artist that could be managed effectively to optimize the value in their IP rights. The mix of partisan politics and product endorsement by artist in leveraging their celebrity, publicity trademark and other IP rights is a risking business model in a developing political economy like Nigeria. The recent use of Nollywood to promote one political aspirant over to other may be a double edged sword.

Politics being a blood sport and highly combustible affair in most of Africa, including Nigeria may have a blurring effect on the product being endorsed and the artist who is endorsing the product. When Nollywood group of artists endorse a political aspirant, there is the danger of product alienation and negative prejudice. There is an immediate financial reward in political endorsement but how about the long term valuation defect of the brand, trademark and publicity/image rights of the Nollywood artist involved in such politico-commerce campaign.
The general reception of the image and creative works of the Nollywood artist at the end of the day is the currency that will sustain his star power and celebrity status. The longer Nollywood artists maintain control and use of his intellectual property rights, the longer the brand remains an asset worth global valuation for economic returns. The combined effects of positive optics and alluring appeal to an artist most times translates from intangible to tangible assets. So a careful walking a thin line of professional balance and market sustainability is required.

The downside of corporate support of any political aspirant by Nollywood community is the sword of emotional ostracization of the artist because of the political affiliation that may be ascribed to Nollywood as a group or to the artist individually. When an aspirant that Nollywood support fails in the political contest, how would the larger public which is not politically sophisticated to differentiate politics from a professional work. Nigeria largely is still a society that majority of Nollywood patrons are not academicians but average Janes and Joes who do not have the luxury of analyzing an artists’ professional work from political affiliations. Nollywood artist should not risk polarizing its market and celebrity base. Partisan Politicking should not be part of Nollywood modus operandi. Let politicians do what they do best and Nollywood should focus on creativity and innovations in our emerging film industry.

Nollywood artists have every legal and moral rights to endorse any political candidate of their choice but they must be wary of trending into corporate endorsement that conflicts with global best practices in enhancing their creative spaces. The professional managers of these artists may have to adopt strategic environmental valuation modems for the Nollywood artist. More work and professional assistance from IP professional practitioners are needed to take Nollywood to where it ought to be in entertainment and cultural industry globally. The valuation index for maximization of Nollywood artist could be at par with any “A” list Hollywood artist. All it takes is creative and strategic guidance.  Nollywood IP rights and protection is relevance to its growth.  Talents are abound in Nollywood and together we can rule the creative and innovative space globally.

Samuel Andrews, LL.M

  • Updated. This article was first published in 2011.

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