Hot Topics In The Nigerian Intellectual Property Industry - Volume 2

  • Posted On 2 May, 2017

Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) Approved as a Collecting Society in Nigeria

Following the directive from the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) has been granted approval by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (“NCC”) to act as a Collective Management Organisation ("CMO") for musical works and sound recordings in Nigeria.

The NCC is empowered pursuant to section 39 of the Copyright Act to grant approvals to a collecting society to operate as one in Nigeria. For a long time, the MCSN has been clamoring to be recognized as a CMO. Its application in 2009 to the NCC for approval was denied and its appeal to the Federal High Court to quash the decision was unsuccessful. The Federal High Court and Court of Appeal had also ruled that the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) was the only recognized CMO in Nigeria being the only CMO duly licensed by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) further to the Copyright Act.

The story however changed when the Attorney General of the Federation, following a petition from MCSN and investigations in to the matter, directed the NCC to issue with immediate effect, an approval by way of licence to MCSN to operate as a collecting society for the purpose of the Copyright Act.

This ends the monopoly long enjoyed by MCSN for over a decade. It will be interesting to see how the approval of another CMO in Nigeria will play out!


Interim  Injunction On  Nollywood Film, ‘Okafor’s Law’ Shakes The Nollywood Film Industry

Omoni Oboli, one of the most celebrated Nigerian actresses and movie producers (the “Defendant”) was recently prevented from holding a much publicized premiere of her new movie “Okafor’s Law” due to an interim injunction granted by the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos  on an allegation  of copyright infringement by a Canadian-based writer, Jude Idada.  Justice I.N Buba of the Federal High Court ordered the actress to stop the premiere of the movie and also ordered the seizure of copies of the movie. Okafor’s Law features some of the biggest names in the Nigerian movie industry (Nollywood), including Richard Mofe Damijo (RMD), Toyin Aimaku, Yvonne Jegede and Blossom Chukwujekwu. Mr. Idada alleged that the Defendant modified his script and utilized it in the production of the movie, without giving him any credit, or paying the agreed consideration. The movie was first released in September 2016 at the Toronto International Film Festival, Canada.

This case promises to be a very interesting one (if it proceeds) given the popularity of the parties involved and the fact that this appears to be the first time that Nollywood is taking seriously (and not just paying lip service to) the issue of “script theft” and enforcement of copyright in scripts etc.


A Nigerian Court Orders The National Agency For Food And Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC) To Compel The Nigerian Bottling Company To Warn Consumers Of Dangers Of Drinking Fanta Or Sprite With Vitamin C

A Lagos State High Court has ordered the NAFDAC to direct the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Plc to put a written warning on Fanta and Sprite bottles  sold in Nigeria stating that both soft drinks are poisonous when consumed along with Vitamin C.

The order is part of the court’s decision in a case instituted by Fijabi Adebo Holdings Ltd and Dr. Fijabi Adebo (the “Claimants”) in January 8, 2008 against NBC. The Claimants’ case is that its  consignment of Fanta and Sprite drinks purchased from the NBC and exported to the United Kingdom (UK) for sale was confiscated and destroyed by the Department of Environment and Economy Directorate, UK’s Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council’s Trading Standard,  (“UK SMBCTS”) , based on fundamental health issues raised on the contents and composition of the products. In its defense, the NBC argued that the products were not intended to be consumed in the UK, but in Nigeria and that the products had met the safety standards prescribed by NAFDAC for their production. The findings of the UK SMBCTS were also corroborated by the Coca-Cola European Union and products were found to have excessive levels of “Sunset Yellow and benzoic acid” which are unsafe for human consumption.

The Court held that any drink (including the products) manufactured by the NBC should be fit for human consumption, irrespective of colour or creed.  The Court also held that NAFDAC failed Nigerians by declaring, as fit for human consumption, products discovered by tests in the UK  as becoming poisonous when mixed with ascorbic acid (popularly known as Vitamin C), owing to the excessive levels of sunset yellow additives and benzoic acid.  The Court therefore, ordered that all bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks manufactured by NBC must, within 90 days, have labels indicating the danger of consumption of the content of the said bottles with vitamin C.

This is the first time such decision will be handed down against one of the biggest manufacturers in Nigeria. NBC PLC has since filed an appeal against the decision.


Standards Organisation Of Nigeria Discovers Buildings Where Dates Of Expired Products Are Altered

The Standard Organisation of Nigeria (the “SON”), the government agency responsible for the designation, establishment and approval of standards for the certification of products in commerce and industry in Nigeria, recently discovered two  residential buildings storing thousands of wine and cosmetic products with altered manufacture and expiration dates.  Upon examination, the cosmetics were found to have various expiry dates, with some dating as far back as 2004.

While this is commendable of the SON, this seizure merely represents a drop in the ocean in relation to the increasing number of expired products that have flooded the Nigerian market within the last ten years. Recently, a renowned Gospel musician, Eric Arubayi died as result of the consumption of expired malaria drugs. Whilst regulation of drugs falls within the purview of NAFDAC, we hope that all regulatory agencies responsible for enforcement of standards of products will collaborate in the drive to rid the Nigerian market of counterfeit and expired products.


Copyright Society Of Nigeria (COSON) And MTN Explore Possibility Of An Out- Of - Court Settlement

Commonly referred to as Africa’s Biggest Copyright Law Suit, the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) last year filed a N16,000,000,000 (Sixteen Billion Naira) copyright infringement lawsuit against MTN, one of the largest telecommunication companies in Nigeria, with respect to MTN’s failure to obtain the appropriate licenses and pay requisite royalties for the musical works and sound recordings deployed by the MTN.

However, it has been reported that both parties have agreed on a framework for the peaceful resolution of the matter. A large number of IP practitioners that were keen to witness a first of its kind trial will be disappointed by this development.


Trial Over Legality Of Appointment And Dismissal Of The Registrar Of Trademarks In Nigeria Continues

The Intellectual Property Lawyers Association of Nigeria ( not to be confused with the Intellectual Property Law Association of Nigeria) filed an action in 2015 against the Ministry of Trade and Investment challenging its competence to appoint and dismiss the Registrar of Trademarks. This comes after the instability witnessed in the leadership of the Trade Marks Registry during which three (3) Registrars were appointed and dismissed in 2015. The association alleges that pursuant to Section 1 of the Trade Marks Act Cap T13 LFN 2004 and Section 28 of the Patents and Designs Act Cap P1 LFN 2004 the Registrar is to be appointed by the Federal Civil Service Commission. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this case and one would hope that it would not have any impact on the appointment of the current Registrar who has been in position for over a year and working assiduously to bring stability to the Registry and solve some of its operational challenges.


Bank Of Industry Announces New Requirements For Financing NAFDAC Certified Products

The Intellectual Property Lawyers Association of Nigeria ( not to be confused with the Intellectual Property Law Association of Nigeria) filed an action in 2015 against the Ministry of Trade and Investment challenging its competence to appoint and dismiss the Registrar of Trademarks. This comes after the instability witnessed in the leadership of the Trade Marks Registry during which three (3) Registrars were appointed and dismissed in 2015. The association alleges that pursuant to Section 1 of the Trade Marks Act Cap T13 LFN 2004 and Section 28 of the Patents and Designs Act Cap P1 LFN 2004 the Registrar is to be appointed by the Federal Civil Service Commission. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this case and one would hope that it would not have any impact on the appointment of the current Registrar who has been in position for over a year and working assiduously to bring stability to the Registry and solve some of its operational challenges.


Nigeria Ranked 35 Out Of 45 Countries On The 2017 Edition Of The U.S Chamber International IP Index

Nigeria has been ranked 35 in the fifth edition of the U.S. Chamber International IP Index, “The Roots of Innovation” with a score of 10.97 out of 35. Economies are scored against 6 categories of IP protection: patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets and market access, enforcement, and ratification of international treaties.

Nigeria’s key areas of strength were listed to be; Basic IP framework in place and ongoing enforcement efforts by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) despite an overall challenging environment. Nigeria’s weaknesses were listed as follows: overall weak and limited legal and regulatory framework; absence of major forms of intellectual property rights; the persistence of enforcement challenges, high rates of physical and growing online piracy; and limited participation in international IP treaties.

Other African countries included in the index include Kenya, South Africa, Egypt and Algeria, ranking 31, 33, 41, and 42 respectively.

With efforts in place to pass the Industrial Property Commission of Nigeria Bill, amend the Copyright Act and efforts by regulatory bodies to enforce intellectual property rights, it is expected that Nigeria’s ratings will improve in the forthcoming years.


Copyright Commission Seizes Three Containers Of Pirated Goods

The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) recently announced the seizure of three containers of pirated goods allegedly to be worth about N275,000,000 (Two Hundred and Seventy Five Million Naira)  in the Tin Can Island and Apapa Ports of Lagos State. The containers were described as 20 feet Containers containing CDs and DVDs of various Nigerian and foreign musical and film works, bibles and books.

The Director-General of the NCC stated that the containers were seized as a result of collaboration between the Nigerian Customs Service and the officers of the NCC. He further urged copyright owners and other stakeholders to collaborate with the NCC with regards to intelligence gathering, investigation, and prosecution of copyright offenders to ensure that creators and genuine investors make substantial gains from their creativity and investments.


Nigeria’s Foremost Beauty Entrepreneur Launches “United We Stand” Campaign Gainst Intellectual Property Theft

Tara Fela-Durotoye, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of House of Tara International, Nigeria’s pioneer beauty and makeup line, has launched the ‘United We Stand’ campaign to tackle piracy, counterfeiting and intellectual property theft in Nigeria. This campaign follows the widespread counterfeiting of Tara beauty products as well as a number of renowned indigenous beauty products. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness about the menace of counterfeiting, intellectual property theft and piracy in Nigeria. 

During the flag-off of the Campaign, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar stressed the importance of synergy among regulatory and enforcement agencies of government to eliminate the menace of intellectual property rights infringement and abuse.  

This is the first time, stakeholders in the beauty and healthcare industry are uniting to create awareness about anti-counterfeiting.


COSON Sues State Government In Relation To Africa’s Biggest Street Party

The Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) has filed a N5,000,000,000 (Five Billion Naira) copyright infringement action against the Calabar Carnival Commission and the Cross River state Government (the “Defendants”) in relation to the organization of Africa’s biggest street party held in annually in December in Calabar, South Southern Nigeria. COSON alleged that during the four-day Calabar carnival organized by the Defendants, musical works and sound recordings belonging to its members, affiliates, assignors and licensors were played to millions of people without the appropriate licenses or authorization.

Although the suit was filed by COSON in 2013, a trial date was not set till 2017, following failed attempts by the parties to reach an out of court settlement. The case promises to be an interesting one as it will set a precedent for other carnivals organized in other parts of Nigeria.

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