The Intellectual Property Office (IPOPhl) has dismissed the trademark registration of Television and Production Exponents, Inc., or TAPE, Inc., for the names “Eat Bulaga” and “EB.”
The IPOPhl Bureau of Legal Affairs’ ruling dated December 4, favors the position of former “Eat Bulaga” hosts Tito and Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon, collectively known as TVJ, that they are the rightful owners of the “Eat Bulaga” trademark, given the testimony and explanation they have provided of its origin.
“The petitioners proved that it is the originator and owner of the contested EAT BULAGA mark. Petitioners’ explanation or story on how initially the idea of the EAT BULAGA mark came about did seem believable and credible,” a portion of the IPOPhl ruling, penned by Atty. Josephine Alon, BLA Adjudication Officer, stated.
Atty. Enrique dela Cruz, counsel for petitioners TVJ and former “Eat Bulaga” executive Jenny Ferre, said the IPOPhl’s ruling is an “early Christmas blessing.”
“We thank God for this early Christmas blessing. Maagang pamasko ito… The decision underscores a very important concept in trademark law. Registration of a mark does not vest ownership over the mark. It is ownership that gives the right to register it. Hindi unahan na mag rehistro ang laban sa trademark. Kung sino ang tunay na may ari at may likha, sya ang may karapatan na magpa rehistro,” said dela Cruz.
Being originators and creators of the “Eat Bulaga” trademark, dela Cruz said TVJ are entitled to the protection of our trademark laws.
“TVJ is ‘Eat Bulaga’ and ‘Eat Bulaga’ is TVJ,” he further said.
It is the contention of TVJ that they are the rightful owners of the trademark, considering that it is de Leon which thought of the “Eat Bulaga” name, as well as its logo and its iterations; while the theme song was composed of a team led by Vic Sotto.
On May 31, 2023, TVJ left “Eat Bulaga” amid production clashes with their home studio, TAPE, which still had a contract with GMA Network. Together with their co-hosts, the group transferred to TV5, which offered them their original noontime slot. The group had since then been broadcasting under its new program, “EAT.”
Meanwhile, TAPE revamped its “Eat Bulaga” show on GMA, acquiring a new set of hosts but retaining its popular format, prompting TVJ to file a copyright and unfair competition case last June against TAPE and GMA before the Marikina regional trial court. This petition remains pending up to this time.
In a series of interviews, Tito Sotto pointed out that while Production Specialists might have funded the show, it was TVJ and Tony Tuviera who conceptualized the show and carried it through difficult times.
Tito said the use of “Eat Bulaga” name and logo, music and even segments, as well as the airing of replay episodes of the original “Eat Bulaga” shows by the rebranded program on GMA did not secure their consent.
“In 1979, Production Specialists was owned by Romy Jalosjos. So they funded the initial ‘Eat Bulaga’ in RPN-9… Pagdating ng July 1980, wiped out ‘yun. Talong talo ng Channel 7, because Channel 7 [or] GMA had ‘Student Canteen.’ Hirap na hirap kami,” Tito Sotto said to Nelson Canlas in April.
“After all these years, 44 years, hindi naman sila nakikialam sa amin, e.g., it was Tony Tuviera who was coordinating with us the whole time. It was Tony Tuviera na kausap namin. Lahat ng production, lahat ng ginagawa namin du’n, kami-kami ‘yon,” said Tito Sotto in another interview with CNN.
“Tape Inc. has absolutely no right to celebrate 44 years. They existed only in 1981. They did not exist in 1979. EB ceased to be EB when TVJ left them,” Tito Sotto wrote.
Unbeknown to TVJ, defendant TAPE Inc. registered with the IPOPhl several trademarks, which include the marks “Eat Bulaga and EB” and “EB,” but the plaintiffs noted that these trademarks were only registered 33 years after “Eat Bulaga’s” inception in 1979.
The registration also did not include entertainer and entertainment services, music education, organization of competition, and others, which means that TAPE’s registration “does not prevent TVJ from acquiring and exercising its rights over the ‘Eat Bulaga’ word mark since the ‘goods’ subject of the trademark is unrelated to the ‘good’ being offered by TVJ.”
In August, IPOPhl renewed TAPE’s trademark registration for “Eat Bulaga” for another 10 years, but TVJ lawyers claimed that this is just ministerial on the part of the government agency.