The other side of the Rivermaya issue
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo () - October 6, 2009 - 12:00am

Last Sept. 26 (which will be long remembered as the day Ondoy unleashed his fury on Metro Manila), Funfare came up with the “scoop” that the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) issued an order dated Aug. 18, 2009 which upheld the claim of Lizza Guerrero Nakpil that she owned the trademark Rivermaya (under Registration Number 4-2008-008018).

“The Philippines is a signatory to all international conventions and treaties governing international property,” said Lizza who claimed that she conceived and founded the band in 1993 together with business partner Chito Roño.

Lizza also said that it was she and Chito who auditioned, hired and developed the various members. Mark Escueta (Jolina Magdangal’s current date), the only remaining original member of the group, filed with the IPO his own claim of ownership of the trademark in Oct. 2008. It was rejected by IPO along with an opposition filed by Mark et al to Lizza’s ownership.

The four other original members were Bamboo Mañalac and Rico Blanco who, according to Lizza, “have resigned for personal reasons” and went on their own (Bamboo formed a band named after him and Rico went solo), Nathan Azarcon and Perfecto de Castro. The other members joined the band only in 2001. The newest member, singer Jayson Fernandez, was hired in 2007 through a nationwide TV search financed by Lizza. The two other members are Mike Elgar (guitars) and Japs Sergio (bass).

Said Lizza, “Under the decision, all concerts, albums, and projects by any groups, producers, sponsors, venues, promotional vehicles utilizing the name Rivermaya without my express authorization constitute a violation of law and violators may be subject to legal action, both civil or criminal, aside from damages and other penalties which may be imposed by law.”

The other day, Mark Escueta called me up to give his side of the issue. He was then having lunch with Jolina and her parents.

It turned out that, contrary to Lizza’s claim, the IPO decision is not yet final. Let’s now hear the side of Mark and his fellow Rivermayas in the following official statement (as is) issued on their behalf by the Yasay Regalado Atienza & Mendoza Law Office (formerly Escueta Yasay & Partners):

While the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has issued a Decision in the matter of Lizza Nakpil’s application for trademark registration of “Rivermaya,” there is nothing in the Decision which resolves or confirms Lizza Nakpil’s claim of ownership.     

The Decision, which is far from being final, merely states that our opposition was dismissed “without prejudice,” which means that the Decision itself does not preclude us from asserting our right to establish our ownership of the servicemark “Rivermaya” in the proper forum, such as the right to file a Petition for Cancellation in the event that Lizza Nakpil or any other entity registers “Rivermaya” in their name.   

In the Decision, the IPO Director found no necessity to pass upon the merits of the case, as she merely dwelled on pure technicality.    

Lizza Nakpil is not, and has never been, the creator of Rivermaya. The truth is, the name “Rivermaya” was created, collectively, by Nathan Azarcon, Bamboo Mañalac, Perfecto de Castro, Rico Blanco and Mark Escueta in 1994. Nathan Azarcon and Bamboo Mañalac have confirmed this fact in a Joint Affidavit submitted to the IPO in support of our opposition to Lizza Nakpil’s application.    

Since the creation of the name “Rivermaya,” the band members had changed, except for Mark Escueta who had stayed, and who, together with the current members, Mike Elgar, Japs Sergio, and recently, Jayson Fernandez, kept Rivermaya among the top bands in the country today. Through our original music, the past and current members of Rivermaya band have continuously used and successfully promoted the name and mark “RIVERMAYA” in the entertainment scene here and abroad.  

Lizza Nakpil, on the other hand, was a mere manager-agent of the individual members of the Rivermaya band, who, in evident bad faith, had applied for the registration of the servicemark “Rivermaya” in July 2008, or three (3) months after an unfortunate incident in April 2008, which led to the loss of our trust in Lizza Nakpil as our manager-agent, the eventual revocation of her authority to represent us, and the filing of a criminal action against her before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Makati.

If there is any justice to be had from our legal system, we are confident that once the merits of the case are considered, Lizza Nakpil’s application shall be denied. Under the Intellectual Property Code, “Rivermaya” is unregistrable since it is a name, which collectively identifies us as a band. “Rivermaya” has been made well-known by and is really all about the music created by the artists who became part of the Rivermaya band. Lizza Nakpil is not one of them.    

Our lawyers are currently taking the appropriate action on the matter. In the meantime, we shall continue to use the name and mark “Rivermaya,” despite Lizza Nakpil’s acts of harassment and misrepresentation.

As I mentioned in the previous story, the IPO decision came just when Rivermaya has released a new album called Closest Thing to Heaven under Warner Music Philippines, its new home. The album contains 10 all-original tracks featuring a fresh new Rivermaya sound which will surely catch the interest of music fans from various genres. The band has had gigs in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore (for the New Year countdown) and Seoul (as the Philippine representative at the Asian Songfest).

***

Popular hip-hop/R&B superstar Akon extends his sympathies to his Filipino fans, in the wake of the severe damage brought about by Typhoon Ondoy.

Amidst his busy touring schedule, Akon was deeply saddened upon finding out about the tragedy wrought by the recent typhoon. “My heart grieves for all Filipinos who lost their lives, their loved ones and their cherished possessions during that tragic weekend,” he shares.

“It is in these trying moments that we find our greatest strength, faith and capacity for self-sacrifice. I pray for the safety and well-being of all of you out there in the Philippines.”

Akon is scheduled to perform at the Araneta Coliseum on Oct. 23, together with Billy Crawford, in a concert dubbed Freedom Tour ’09.

The show will definitely push through, with Akon himself spearheading the charity campaign by donating a sizeable chunk of the concert proceeds to the typhoon victims.

Through the auspices of the concert’s producer, ALV Events International, Akon is funneling his contributions through a still unnamed beneficiary.

“For every ticket you buy, you do your own humble share in assuring your calamity-stricken brothers of food, clothing and shelter,” Akon says. “My music and my own life story have always been a testament to freedom, and it’s only fitting that I pay back by helping other people find their own freedom from pain and strife.”

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph or at entphilstar@yahoo.com)

AKON BAND LIZZA LIZZA NAKPIL MARK ESCUETA NAKPIL RIVERMAYA
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