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After 12 years, NUC, AIRTEL know fate in alleged copyright suit, May 4 ~ Truth Reporters

*As claimant seeks N1bn compensation

After twelve years of legal battles, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, will on May 4, 2020, decide whether both the National Universities Commission (NUC) and a Telecom firm, ZAIN Nigeria Ltd (now Airtel) are culpable in the alleged copyright infringement brought against them.

If found guilty, the court would further have to determine whether the plaintiff is entitled to the sum of over N1bn being sought as compensation for the loss or damage suffered as a result of the alleged infringement of his copyright, "Nigeria Universities Challenge", by the two respondents.

Justice Ekwo fixed the date for judgment last Thursday, February 6 shortly after parties adopted their final written addresses as their brief of arguments in the case.

The plaintiff, TV Xtra Production limited had in 2008, instituted legal action against both the NUC and ZAIN Nigeria Ltd, over the alleged usage without his permission of his intellectual property.

In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/680/2008, the plaintiff is asking the court to hold that the approval by the NUC of the program called "ZAIN AFRICAN CHALLENGE" in favour of ZAIN Nigeria Ltd, is an infringement of his copyright in respect of the said programme.

As averred in the affidavit in support of the suit, the Plaintiff’s Managing Director, Mr. Christian Ojorovwu Ogodo, claimed to have developed an educational TV production quiz program, Nigeria Universities Challenge.

He said his rights over the said TV program were registered with the Nigerian Copyright Commission and subsequently donated to the Plaintiff via a Power of Attorney.

The Plaintiff according to him, thereafter made a proposal to the NUC for the endorsement of the program and for collaboration in the production of same to be broadcast on Nigerian Television Stations.

The Plaintiff told the court that he was however surprised to find out that after about four weeks of writing to seek the endorsement and collaboration of the Commission, the NUC approved a similar proposal in favour of one Natives Filmworks Ltd.

This he said necessitated the legal action to seek redress over the infringement of the Plaintiff’s copyright in the earlier work submitted to the NUC for approval.

The Plaintiff’s case against the 2nd defendant is that the 2nd defendant developed a similar program, Zain African Challenge which is similar to Plaintiff’s Universities Challenge in all material particulars.

The 1st defendant endorsed same in favour of the 2nd defendant, which Plaintiff now argues that both actions of the defendants infringed the Plaintiff’s protected intellectual property work, Nigeria Universities Challenge.

While NUC did not file any form of defense to the Plaintiff’s suit, and it is deemed not to have opposed the Plaintiff’s suit as presently constituted, ZAIN Nigeria Ltd on the other hand submitted that Zain African Challenge is not an infringement of the Plaintiff’s Nigeria Universities Challenge quiz program.

The firm in admitting that the said Zain African Challenge was fashioned after ‘University Challenge’, argued that the Plaintiff is not the original owner of the said University Challenge.

It claimed in its defense that the said University Challenge was published in Britain and the intellectual property of the British University Challenge.

But the firm did not lead any evidence in respect of any other registration of University Challenge in Nigeria apart from the one registered by the Plaintiff; and did not also tender the alleged Zain African Challenge nor lead evidence to show the format and in what material parts it differed from the Plaintiff’s Nigeria Universities Challenge.

Part of the reliefs sought by the plaintiff include; an Order compelling the 1st defendant, whether by themselves, or officers, agents, servants, privies, or otherwise howsoever to endorse and approve the programme called "UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE" in favor of the Plaintiff.

"AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining the 2nd defendant whether by themselves, or officers, agents, servants, privies, or otherwise howsoever from producing, airing, marketing or exercising any right in respect of the programme called "ZAIN AFRICAN CHALLENGE".

"AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st defendant whether by itself, or officers, agents, servants, privies, or otherwise howsoever from approving or registering any other programme similar to UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE or which will infringe on the copyright of the Plaintiff over the said programme.

"AN ORDER compelling the defendants jointly and severally to pay the Plaintiff the sum of N500, 000,000.00 (Five Hundred Million Naira) as special damages for the infringement of the Plaintiff’s Copyright.

"AN ORDER compelling the 2nd defendant to pay the Plaintiff the sum of N200,000,000.00 (Two Hundred Million Naira) as general damages for airing the programme titled "ZAIN AFRICAN CHALLENGE" in Nigerian televisions which infringed on the right of the Plaintiff.

"AN ORDER compelling the Defendants jointly and severally to pay the Plaintiff the sum of N3, 000,000.00 (Three Million Naira) being the cost of this action.

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