Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court has ordered Coca-Cola Nigeria Plc and its bottlers, Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC) to pay N3 million damages for Infringing on the copyright of one Abdulmumineen Onilemarun.
Justice Osiagor ordered Coca-cola Plc and its bottlers to pay Onilemarun the sum as compensation for using his calendar work on fasting time for Muslims in Kwara State during the Ramadan period without his consent and authority.
The applicant had accused the defendants of infringing on his work, by using the calendar work in the Ramadan timing for dawn meal and breaking of fasting in Kwara State, 2014 and 2015 without his consent, licence and assignment.
He had therefore urged the court to grant in his favour the following reliefs; “an award of damages of N10 million against the defendants for infringement of copyright by way of unlawful reproducing unlawful publishing and unlawful distributing of his copyright work in the Ramadan Timing for Dawn Meal & Breaking of fasting for Kwara State, 2014, without his consent, licence and assignment.
“An award of damages of N10 million against the defendants for breach of confidence of secret information and his secret idea for making accurate Ramadan timetables by using the said information and idea in producing Coca Cola Ilorin Ramadan Timing June/July 2015 in the course of their trade.
“As well as for infringement of copyright by way of unlawful reproducing and unlawful publishing of substantial similarity of the plaintiff’s particular method in the copyrighted work of the Ramadan Timing for Dawn Meal and Breaking of Fasting for Kwara State, 2015, without his consent, licence and assignment.
“An order of accounts of profits made by the defendants, in Kwara State, between June 29, 2014 and July 28, 2014 as well as between June 17, 2015 and July 16, 2015.
“An order sharing to him 40 per cent of total profits made by the defendants in Kwara State, between 29th June 2014 and 28th July 2014 as well as between 17th June 2015 and 16th July 2015. And the award of the costs of this action against the defendants.”
But the defendants, through their lawyer, Peter Agboola, urged the court to dismiss the suit for lacking merit.
The defendants, during the trial of the suit, argued that for a work to be eligible for copyright, such work must be original, in that sufficient effort must have been expended on making the work have an original character.
They further submitted that there was no evidence before the court of the original work published by the plaintiff, which they allegedly violated.
In conclusion, they maintained that there was no agreement or contemplation of any agreement for compensation because the calendars were not used for any economic purpose but for the educational purpose of the Muslim community during the time of Ramadan.
In his judgment, Justice Osiagor, raised only one issue for determination; “Whether the Plaintiff’s claim of copyright has been proved to deserve protection and be entitled to the reliefs sought?”
In determining the above, the judge held that; “the plaintiff’s suit is founded on his literary work, ‘Ramadan Timing for Dawn Meal for Breaking of Fasting for Kwara State’ and that Copyright Act by section 51 recognises literary works to include: novels, stories and poetical works, letters, reports and memoranda, lectures, addresses and sermons, and written tables or compilations.
He also held, “from the above definition, a compilation of the “Ramadan Timing for dawn meal for breaking of fasting for Kwara State ” is a literary work I hold.
“Defendant’s argument that the copyright certificate of the Plaintiff does not protect any literary work as non was submitted to the Nigerian Copyright Commission, tiled “Ramadan Timing for dawn meal for breaking of fasting for Kwara State” is very misconceived as copyright does not inure in plaintiff’s favour only upon registration.
“It is trite that, Registration of copyright is not a precondition to the protection of the copyright. See Zain Nigeria. TY XTRA Productions Ltd & Anor (2021) LPELR 3534 (CA).
“The plaintiff is entitled to damages which will fully compensate him for his loss. See the Hebridean Coast (1960) 2 ALL E.R 85. The court awards the sum of N3 million as general damages in favour of the Plaintiff for infringement of his copyright.”