TVJ files copyright, unfair competition suits vs TAPE, GMA over ‘Eat Bulaga,’ seeks close to P21M in damages
Updated 10:20 P.M.
Comedic trio, Tito and Vic Sotto, and Joey de Leon (TVJ) have asked the Marikina regional trial court to stop TAPE Inc. and GMA Network from using the name, logo and other devices by the revamped “Eat Bulaga” show, saying this constitutes copyright infringement and unfair competition.
A complaint for violation of the Intellectual Property Code was filed by plaintiffs TVJ, along with former TAPE executive Jeny Ferre, before the Marikina Regional Trial Court Branch 273, seeking a writ of injunction against TAPE and GMA, which were both named as defendants. The case was filed June 30 but was only made available publicly when the parties received a copy of the complaint on Wednesday, July 12.
In seeking an injunction, the plaintiffs asked the trial court that an order be issued enjoining the playback by TAPE on GMA or any other network or channels of the original “Eat Bulaga” episodes, whether in its entirety or a portion thereof, prior to May 31, 2023; enjoining the playback of any old “Eat Bulaga” segment whether in its entirety or a portion of it; and, enjoining the use by TAPE of the show “Eat Bulaga” and any artistic or creative element or derivative work related to the show “Eat Bulaga,” including but not limited to its jingle and logo design.
At the same time, after hearing the case and finding favor in their complaint, the plaintiffs are asking the Marikina RTC to order TAPE to pay damages amounting to P20.98 million, broken down into the following: P17,482,428.12 as actual damages for copyright infringement; P2 million for unfair competition; and P500,000 each for attorney’s fees, moral damages, and exemplary damages.
The case stemmed from the defendants’ supposed illegal use of the “Eat Bulaga” name and logo, music and even segments, as well as the airing of replay episodes of the original “Eat Bulaga” shows for use of the revamped Kapuso noontime variety show or any of the network’s program without first securing the plaintiff’s consent.
On Wednesday, the Marikina court issued summonses for the defendants to submit, through their respective legal teams, and “serve on the plaintiffs,” a response to the complaint within a period of 30 days, following the “service” of summons.
GMA Network, in a statement, said that it will “refer the complaint to our legal counsel, Belo Gozon Elma Parel Asuncion & Lucila Law Offices.”
TAPE has yet to give its comment on the matter.
Based on their complaint, filed through lawyers from the Divina Law office, TVJ and Ferre stood by their position that they own the copyright to the name “Eat Bulaga” as it was a product of the “creative powerhouse of a mind” of de Leon, who conceptualized merging the word “Eat” (because of its lunch time slot), and “Bulaga” (to denote surprise) — a fact that they said even TAPE executives acknowledged — and the derivative works of Ferre, then the Head of Creatives and Production Operations of “Eat Bulaga”.
From the word mark “Eat Bulaga,” TVJ and their team also had to conceptualize the logo, which went through several iterations, while the show’s theme song, which had been a constant element of the program, was composed of the team led by Vic Sotto, making the entire show to be their “original creative expressions.”
“Given the plaintiffs are the creative force behind the Subject Show Eat Bulaga, its elements, musical arrangements and segments, it follows that plaintiffs own the copyright over (a) the Subject Show Eat Bulaga, its elements and derivative works (such as jingle / music / varied logo designs) and its individual segments (such as Pinoy Henyo and Juan for All, All for Juan); and (b) the audiovisual recordings thereof,” a portion of their 217-page complaint read.
Unbeknown to TVJ, defendant TAPE Inc. registered with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (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.”
“It should be noted that, while defendant TAPE has registered trademarks pertaining to the logos, TVJ already filed a petition for cancellation with the IPOPHL over said marks last June 2, 2023. In fact, on June 6, 2023, the IPOPHL already issued a Notice to Answer to defendant TAPE. It is undisputed, however, that it does not have a word mark registered under its name for the ‘Eat Bulaga’ word mark,” the complaint further read.
“Defendant TAPE also continues to commit copyright infringement by still using the Subject Show ‘Eat Bulaga’ (with all its derivative works — music, segments and audio visual clips) and just changing the hosts — without the consent of plaintiffs as creators and copyright owners,” they said.
As for unfair competition, the plaintiffs said that TAPE’s acts of replaying and airing the audiovisual recordings were meant to bolster the “false and misleading” belief that there is still some connection between the two parties — TVJ and defendant TAPE Inc. — therefore allowing the production firm to “deceptively utilize the goodwill over ‘Eat Bulaga’ and ‘EB’ brand, which TVJ painstakingly built over the years.”
Plaintiffs also cited the “confusing similarity” between TAPE’s current show that continues to use “Eat Bulaga’s” title and the show’s audiovisual recordings in its replays, vis-a-vis TVJ’s goodwill over the program.
They further gave weight to netizens’ comments on the social media platforms of “Eat Bulaga” and even INQUIRER.net that said, “walang Eat Bulaga if wala ang TVJ.” (There would be no Eat Bulaga if there is no TVJ). They also noted an “intent to deceive the public and defraud a competitor.” EDV