By Taiye Agbaje
An Abuja-based Nigerian, Paul Oche, has filed a N1.5 billion suit against the Nigerian Breweries PLC over alleged intellectual theft.
Oche, in a suit filed before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja, is claiming a sum of N1 billion as aggravated and exemplary damages against the company for unlawfully, capriciously, maliciously and contemptuously infringing on his copyright in the intellectual literary work, titled; “The Amstel Factor; an Amstel Malta Guide on How to Be the Best You Can Be.”
In the suit instituted through his counsel, Paul Ekweume, the plaintiff is also claiming another sum of N500 million as general damages over unlawful use of his copyright.
Besides monetary demands, the plaintiff sought for an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the defendants, their agents, servants and privies from further infringing by way of unlawful use, adaption and derivation on his copyright.
While the Nigerian Breweries PLC is the 1st defendant, DDB South Africa, Mr samsomp Oloche and Heineken BV Netherlands are 2nd to 4th defendants respectively.
In his statement of claim, Oche averred that he authored the Amstel Factor Book as well as a proposal and power point presentation made to promote the Amstel Malta drink brand.
As part of efforts to promote the Amstel Malta brand in Nigeria, the plaintiff claimed that the brewery launched a new credential campaign sometimes in 2016 with the slogan: “Why Add More” and published it on all its social media forums, websites and bill board adverts as well as videos and graphic designs based on the campaign.
He further claimed that he spent several years engaging in various intensive academic researches and eventually gathered the necessary materials which culminated into his writing a book: “The Amstel Factor, An Amstel Malta Guide on How to Be the Best You Can Be;” a proposal and a power point designed to pictorially and graphically demonstrate his works on the electronic media, television and motion pictures.
He said that in 2015, he travelled to the breweries’ headquarter in Lagos and submitted the book and the proposal to the Brand Manager, adding that after the submissions, he waited patiently for a formal invitation by the company to deliver his campaign but was not given acknowledgement of receipt of his book.
The plaintiff said in February 2016, he visited the LinkedIn online profile of one Samson Oloche, the 3rd defendant in the suit, who at the time was the Consumer and Market Intelligence, Digital and Media Manager of the company.
He further averred that he informed the said Oloche how he submitted a proposal in 2015 to Amstel Malta Brand Manager but did not receive any response, adding that the 3rd defendant provided him with his email address, where he then forwarded the power point presentation and proposal and that he got a promise that the right person in the breweries would see and evaluate his work.
He stated that in 2016, he stumbled upon a new Amstel Malta campaign online tagged: “Why Add More.”
He added that without seeking his permission, the breweries used his literary work in the brand campaign and refused to give credit to his work.
Oche further stated that a complaint was lodged with the Nigerian Copyright Commission and that series of meetings were held during which the 3rd defendant admitted receiving Amstel Malta Brand campaign proposal and power point presentation but later claimed to have deleted the materials and that he did not submit it to the appropriate authority.
At the mention of the case on Tuesday, the plaintiff, through his counsel, Ekweume, said he filed a motion on notice for an Interlocutory Injunction, restraining the defendants from further use of his copyright in the activities of the giant brewery lined up for the year.
Although counsel to the 1st, 3rd and 4th defendants, Amina Ibrahim, said she had not been served with the motion, the claim was found to be false.
Counsel to the 2nd defendant, Joseph Osayande, who admitted service of the motion on Dec. 4, asked for time to respond.
Following bitter complaint on the alleged continuous infringement of the copyright and the refusal of the respondents to admit responsibilities, Justice Nyako ordered status quo to be maintained by parties in the suit.
She noted that issues had been joined in the suit.
The judge, who directed the company to continue the sale of the already packaged branded Amstel Malta, ordered that further campaign on the new branded Amstel Malta being handled by DDV of South Africa be put on hold pending the determination of the main suit.
Justice Nyako got infuriated when Osayande, counsel to DDB of South Africa, challenged the order of status quo, prompting the judge to warn the lawyer and his client against flouting the order of the court.
“If you campaign on the subject matter of this suit, it is contempt of court.
“I will descend heavily on you as a counsel because I have warned you and have cautioned you in the open court on the consequences of prejudicing the court,” she held.
The judge adjourned the matter until Jan. 20 for hearing