A Federal high court sitting in Lagos south west Nigeria has dismissed preliminary objection filed by Iroking Limited against N200million copyright infringement suit filed by a renown artiste Onyeka Onwenu.
The court however awarded N10,000 against the defendant in favour of Onwenu.
In a preliminary objection filed and argued before the court, Iroking contended that Onwenu’s statement of claim relates to breach of the digital rights acquisition agreement, therefore Federal high court has no jurisdiction over such matter but Onwenu’s counsel contended that only federal high court has exclusive jurisdiction over copyright infringement matters.
In his ruling the presiding judge, Mohammed Idris, stated that Section 251(1)(e) of the constitution states that the Federal high court has jurisdiction over: “Federal enactment relating to copyright, patent, designs, trademarks and passing off, industrial designs and merchandise trade marks, business names commercial and industrial monopolies, combines, standards of goods and commodities and industrial standards.”
Idris added that, “Therefore, where the claim is for infringement of the plaintiff’s copyright, this court is the right court to hear and determine the suit. It is my firm position that the instant suit qualifies as one where the plaintiffs seek a claim against the infringement of the plaintiff copyright. The application is hereby dismissed andN10,000 cost to Onwenu.
Thereafter Justice Idris adjourned till 30th of April, 2018,for the hearing of the main suit.
In a statement of claim filed before the court by Barrister Mayowa Adeyemo of Alpha Lexis Partners, on behalf of Onyeka Onwenu and a management company and recording label Ayollo Productions Limited, under whom she is signed up, averred that Onwenu being in need of a good digital marketer for optimum publicity of her music entered into an agreement through a digital rights acquisition agreement with Iroking Limited on 8th March, 2013 where she agreed to have the company as its non exclusive representative for sale, reproduction and digital transmission of her songs and one Ezeh Dominic a duly representative of the company.
The plaintiff averred that songs were distributed through several digital distribution outlets, whilst the agreement subsist but the defendant failed to remit any revenue generated from the sale and distribution of the plaintiffs songs contrary to the terms of the agreement, and also failed and neglected to render any accounts to the plaintiffs on the sales distribution of their songs.
After the expiration of the agreement, the defendant continued to sell, distribute and market Onwenu’s songs without any remittance neither was the terms of the agreement complied with thereby the defendant continuing to make use of the work and songs of the plaintiffs without authorization therefore infringing on the intellectual property of the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs therefore claims against the defendant as follows: Damages in the sum of N200 million for infringing on the intellectual property of the plaintiff by the continuous sale and distribution of Onwenu’s songs by selling, distributing without the plaintiffs consent.
The sum of N500,000 being cost for engaging several counsels to seek redress on the infringement of the copyright of the plaintiffs.
The sum of N2million being the cost of litigation.