12 years after, Court fixes May 4 for NUC, AIRTEL alleged copyright suit

Barring any last minute changes, 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 copy right 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

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

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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