Omuthiya council faces patent lawsuit

Obrein Simasiku

The much hyped about Omuthiya Othithiya Festival and Career Fair, which is slated for the end of this month, is now hanging in the balance, as a lawsuit relating to Intellectual Property has been brought against Omuthiya Town Council.

However, the council is adamant to fight the lawsuit and go ahead hosting the jamboree.
This comes after an aspirant host of Othithiya Festival, Samuel Shinedima through his lawyers, Salmon Kanyemba Legal Practitioners, demand answers on why the town council copied an idea he had initially presented to them [council] on 16 July 2019.

He claims that without responding to his proposal, the council copied the idea and is now running with it. Another demand was that the council puts the event on hold, and also desist from marketing or promoting the festival.

“Should the council wish to continue with this project we hold further instructions to approach the High Court on an urgent basis. Upon your failure to meet our client’s demands within 14 days after receipt of this missive, we hold instructions to institute legal proceedings against you in the High Court without prior notice, and you shall be held liable of all costs,” states the lawyers.

However, town Mayor Johannes Ndeutepo, is defiant and says the event will go ahead as planned, and in the likelihood of going to court, council will defend the case. “How can some claim a patent to a public event? Festivals are happening everywhere around the country. In fact this is something different far from what he presented. It is even worse placing emphasis on an area [Othithiya] which you do not own,” argued Ndeutepo when approached for comment.

Shinedima says he was shocked to see a poster and invitations on social and mainstream media with announcement and promotion to Omuthiya Othithiya Festival, something he insists is exactly similar to the Othithiya Festival with the theme “creating every opportunity” he wanted to host in 2020, at the water spring recreational facility situated about 10 kilometres south of Omuthiya town.

Shinedima’s proposal was neither rejected or approved, but council went silent, while upon inquiry he would be told council has not sat and deliberated on the matter. Shinedima wanted to host a multimillion dollar festival with an estimated budget of N$6.5 million. The council is budgeting N$499 999, together with its partner, La Tangi Investment cc, which will allegedly contribute 16 percent or roughly N$96 000 towards the event, according to the Mayor. This partnership is of concern to Shinedima who feels he was duped by the council. La Tangi Investment is owned by well known musician Teeleleni “Tate Buti” Mumbangala.

“It was our client’s dismay to notice a social media page Omuthiya-Othithiya-Festival, it was thereafter our clients investigated and discovered that the above mentioned page was linked to Omuthiya town council. The poster displayed shows a concept similar to the idea our client pitched to council in July 2019. Equally the number and email of correspondences displayed on the poster are that of Mr. Piet Andreki, who was the direct link between our client and the town council,” stressed the lawyers

Adding: “It is evident that council acted in a self-serving and rapacious manner, without affording our client his well entitled right to fair predetermination of his proposal.” In his presentation to council, there was a binding copyright non-disclosure clause that stipulated that the project may not be duplicated under any circumstances before the project execution. It is however alleged, council refused to sign, indicating that it will only be appropriate to sign it after the proposal is accepted.

On the other hand, Ndeutepo, countered saying council already had plans prior to the proposal, such as Matumbula festival, Okiri and Othithiya, but these were materialised hence never implemented. “We have however not received the letter from lawyers officially. So we are still to understand the merits of his claim/concern whether it has to do with the name ‘Othithiya’ that we included or what exactly that he wants, in fact our event is to be hosted at the sports complex in town. However, we can assure the public that all processes are in order and ongoing, with some artists already been paid, including other logistical arrangements,” said Ndeutepo.

Hurriedly

Shinedima further argued saying, council last year already had a budget for the festival, but it was never implemented as they’re incapacitated even though he claims money was available. His remarks come hot on the heels of residents asking why the event hurriedly executed after being approached by La Tangi Investment on 1st June through a proposition to assist in hosting the festival, and then council a week later approached the partnership and availed the budget. La Tangi, according to documents seen by this publication had quoted a total budget of N$349 000, of which council availed N$499 999, thus raising red flags.
“Look, we already had a surplus because this is money that was already budgeted but not utilised, therefore now after receiving the proposal from La Tangi we decided to go for it and make use of the funds before the financial year could end. That is why you see it being done in a rush, and has nothing to do with copying and side-lining Shinedima. We had our idea and he has his, and there is no harm in us not using his,” retaliated Ndeutepo.

Apart from the 16 percent event contribution, La Tangi in return, offered to provide acknowledgement certificate and also for Omuthiya’s participation on radio and various advertising platforms, exclusive invitation to festival after party; corporate logo and signages on various platforms, sourcing of financial sponsors, among others.

“This is a non-profit event, our aim is creative awareness, economic development, local business empowerment as well as attracting investors to our town. We therefore did not procure services of La Tangi, but it is just a partner in executing even though we are [council] doing the funding. We still have another event with a budget of N$600 000 to be held in December, so there is nothing special or sinister about this festival,” the mayor stated, amid a public outrage.

By Observer