10 Intellectual Property Cases that Made Headlines in 2016

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November 14, 2016 –Last December, when we highlighted 10 Intellectual Property (IP) cases that made headlines in 2015, we projected that suing for the protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) would become common practice in Nigeria. This year, the IP cases filed in Nigeria lived up to our projections. In no particular order, below are 10 cases that made headlines in Nigeria in 2016.

10. Rolling Innovations and Investment Limited & Anor. v. Ecobank Nigeria Limited

Suit No: FHC/L/CS/452/2016
Location: Federal High Court, Lagos
At Issue: Alleged breach of confidentiality and the similarity between two saving and spending schemes

Facts: Ecobank Nigeria Limited was sued by Rolling Innovations and Investment Limited and its Managing Director, Anthony Osamudiamen, (the Plaintiffs).  The Plaintiffs alleged that they had communicated confidential information as part of negotiations for a partnership agreement with Defendant bank for over two years but both parties were unable to reach an agreement. A major part of the negotiations involved the disclosure of their IP, titled “Patent Specification for Innovation Spend and Save Concept,” which involved a suite of computer programmes to which they owned the copyright. The Plaintiffs claimed that following the breakdown in the negotiations, the Defendant bank continued to use the confidential information — marketing and earning profit using a similar package with the name, “Save As You Spend (SAYS) Scheme”. The Plaintiffs sought N8 billion as compensation, and asked the court for an injunction restraining the Defendant from using the information and marketing “Save As You Spend Scheme.”

 9. Incorporated Trustees of Association of Hotel Proprietors of Edo State v. Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON)

Suit No: FHC/B/CS/137/2014
Location: Federal High Court, Benin
At Issue: The power of COSON to enforce the copyright of owners of musical works and sound recordings in hotels and right of Police Officers to enter premises without warrant.

Facts: In 2014, the Incorporated Trustees of Association of Hotel Proprietors of Edo State filed a Suit against COSON. They asked the Court to determine several questions related to the powers of COSON to enforce the copyright of owners of musical works and sound recordings in hotels and similar establishments in Nigeria.  On October 21, 2016, the Federal High Court in Benin City presided over by Justice A.M. Liman ruled in favor of COSON. The Court emphasized that the police do not need warrants to arrest offenders or an order of court to enter premises either alone or with representatives of COSON for offences relating to copyright infringement. The court stated that the appointment of Copyright inspectors does not preclude the police from arresting and prosecuting copyright offenders.

8.  Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) V. MTN

Suit No: FHC/L/CS/619/2016
Location: Federal High Court, Lagos
At Issue: Copyright Infringement in Callertunez

Facts: In what many have described as the biggest copyright lawsuit on the African continent, COSON in this Suit asked the court for six separate declarations of copyright infringement perpetrated by MTN in the MTN Friendship’, ‘Connect’ or ‘Walk In’ Centres across Nigeria; the MTN ‘Road Shows’ in Nigeria; the various MTN Music Concerts, Festivals, Award Shows, Product Activation and Corporate events; the MTN Callertunez platform; the MTN Music Plus Platform, and the MTN Mobile Radio. In the Statement of Claim, COSON stated that it had made several appeals to MTN to obtain the appropriate licenses and pay requisite royalties for the musical works and sound recordings deployed by the company. COSON asked the Court for an injunction restraining MTN and its agents from the continued unauthorized copying, communication to the public, streaming, selling, broadcasting, making available for downloading and permitting the unauthorized performance and infringement of the copyright in the musical works and sound recordings belonging to its members and affiliates.

7. Temitope Akinyemi v. The Sun Publishing Limited

Suit No: FHC/WR/CS/87/16
Date of Filing: October 11, 2016
Location: Federal High Court, Warri
At Issue: Alleged Copyright Infringement in a Photograph

Facts: In this Suit, the Daily Sun Newspaper (the Defendant) was accused of “illegally and criminally publishing” a photograph in the newspaper’s May 25, 2016 edition on its dating ‘Sun Girl’ page. Daily Sun allegedly published the photograph of Ms. Temitope Akinyemi (the Plaintiff), a student of Delta State Polytechnic with the name ‘Sadiyat’ and telephone number 09057312447. On October 11, 2016, the Plaintiff filed Suit No. FHC/WR/CS/87/16 against the Defendants seeking N500 million as damages for copyright infringement and illegal publication. On October 27, the Defendants filed their Statement of Defence claiming that it legally obtained the photograph and that the Plaintiff was not the owner of the copyright in the photograph. The case is currently pending before the Federal High Court.

6. Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria LTD/GTE (MCSN) v. Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC)

Suit No: CA/L/575/2009
Date of Judgement: October 21, 2016
Location: Court of Appeal, Lagos
At Issue: Collective Societies in Nigeria

Facts: On October 21, 2016, the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos dismissed an appeal filed by MCSN. MCSN had filed the appeal following the judgment of the Federal High Court in Lagos. The Federal High Court presided over by Honourable Justice I. M. Sani had held that provisions of the Copyright Act are not unconstitutional and do not violate the fundamental right of MCSN. Both MCSN and the NCC have been involved a series of lawsuits filed by MCSN following the refusal of the NCC to approve MCSN as a collecting society, in Nigeria. In some of the suits, MCSN claimed that their activities and duties as a collecting society were not subject to approval from the Commission. In other cases, MCSN sought orders of court to compel the Commission to approve them as a collecting society. It was following the above decision that MCSN filed this present appeal. In a unanimous judgment, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal stating that provisions of the Copyright Act do not violate any constitutional rights reserved for MCSN. The court awarded  N50,000 to NCC. The implication of this decision is that MCSN is required to obtain approval the from Nigerian Copyright Commission before carrying out the functions of a collecting society.

5.  Copyright Society of Nigeria v. Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN)

Suit No: FHC/L/CS/603/2016
Location: Federal High Court, Lagos

Facts: The Copyright Society of Nigeria filed Suit No. FHC/L/CS/603/2016 at the Federal High Court in Lagos to restrain the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) from broadcasting music and sound recordings belonging to its members on all 42 FRCN stations across the country until all music copyright royalties due to COSON were paid. COSON alleged that its officers had strived unsuccessfully to collect music copyright royalties from FRCN and that the conduct of organizations such as FRCN resulted in massive job and significant revenue losses as well as heavy capital flight from the country, as most of the world’s best-known international music companies have divested from Nigeria.

4.  Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Michael Orakwe

Before: Justice M.B. Idris.
Location: Federal High Court, Lagos
At Issue: Charges for illegal reproduction of musical works

Facts: The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) arraigned one Mr. Michael Orakwe popularly known as “Pandora” for illegal reproduction of musical works belonging to the famous late musician, Dr. Sir Warrior, which copyright was later assigned to Panovo Entertainment. The Accused pleaded “Not Guilty”.

3.  Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Olisakwe Chigozie Loffman

Before:  Justice M. B. Idris
Suit No: FHC/L/470c/15
Location: Federal High Court, Lagos
At Issue: Book Piracy

Facts: Earlier this year,  the Nigerian Copyright Commission arraigned one Mr. Olisakwe Chigozie Loffman before the Federal High Court for book piracy in Lagos. The Copyright Commission had filed charges against the accused on November 11, 2015 in Charge No. FHC/L/470c/15 but the accused had been on the run. The Accused was charged with making 1,190 infringing copies of works in which copyright subsist in favour of Olu Omoju, Mark Nkemdi, Pearson publishers and HEBN publishers. The accused pleaded “Not Guilty”.

 2. Liberty Williams (a.k.a. Pupayannis) v. MTN Nigeria Communications Limited & Ors.

Suit No: FHC/L/CS/799/2016
Date of Filing: October 12, 2016
Location: Federal High Court, Abuja
At Issue: Copyright Infringement in Music and Sound Recording

Facts: On October 12, 2016, Musician, Pupayannis (the Plaintiff) filed a Suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja against MTN Nigeria Communications Limited and others. The subject of the suit was Copyright Infringement of his song “Love is Everything”.  In his Statement of Claim, the Plaintiff alleged that MTN has been collecting money for caller tunes for his song and had not compensated him for its use. The Plaintiff indicated that although he had a relationship with a record company, he did not give copyright to his past works including ‘Love is Everything’ and that the sale or offer for a fee of the Plaintiff’s song to MTN subscribers or customers without his consent constituted copyright infringement. The Plaintiff asked the court to award the sum of N200,000,000 as general damages and N100,000,000 as aggravated and punitive damages.

1. Mi-Fone International DMCC & Anor. v. Xiaomi Inc.

Before: Justice I.N. Buba
Suit No:

Location: Federal High Court, Lagos
At Issue: Trademark Infringement

Facts: Earlier this year, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos issued an interim Injunction against Xiaomi Inc. of China with regard to their “Mi” branded Mobile devices which were on sale in the Nigerian market via various retailers. The Plaintiffs, Mi-Fone International DMCC together with Rosa Holdings Ltd., filed the Suit alleging alleging that they were the holders of the ‘Mi’ registered trademarks in Nigeria and across Africa. The Plaintiffs also alleged that they were the owners of Mi-Fone, which was established in 2008 and that the company subsequently registered the Mi trademarks in the relevant classes in Nigeria. The Injunction in Nigeria was issued by Honorable Justice I.N. Buba of Federal High Court in Lagos. Also included as Defendants were Mobile in African Limited, MIA Group and Ecart Internet Services Limited (trading as Jumia).

 This article is intended to provide general information about the subject matter. Professional legal advice should be sought about specific circumstances.

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About Ufuoma Akpotaire 319 Articles
Ufuoma is a Senior Editor and Director of Regulatory Policy at NLIPW. She assists clients in the protection of copyrights, trademarks and patents. She counsels clients regarding validity and infringement matters and has experience acting against the infringement of IP and addressing counterfeit issues. She holds a Masters degree (LL.M.) from Columbia Law School, New York and a law degree from the University of Nigeria (LL.B. Honors). She is admitted to practice law in Nigeria and in the State of New York. Ufuoma cut her teeth in the intellectual property practice groups of some of the largest law firms in Nigeria and has years of experience working with major non-profit organizations in New York. Email: uakpotaire@nlipw.com