By Abdullah Muhammad
Attention was drawn to a very interesting issue in Nigeria on 6 May when the Federal High Court, Abuja, have judgment on a matter between TV XTRA PRODUCTIONS LTD (plaintiffs) owned by veteran broadcaster Christian Ogodo now General Editor of ARISE TV vs defendants National Universities Commission (NUC) and mobile telephony operator ZAIN Nigeria, now AIRTEL
However, there is a danger that the global attention to COVID-19 has deflected attention from.a landmark ruling.
The meat of the matter is that the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants jointly violated their copyrights by airing a television programme targeting Nigerian universities, which they claim, is based on a proposal they submitted to NUC on 7 October 2007.
After reviewing the arguments and submissions by all parties, the Court, presided over by His Lordship, Justice Iyang E. Ekwo, in a 27-page judgement, ruled in favour of TV XTRA and awarded a total cost of N703 million to the plaintiffs.
The judgement is an eye-opener to institutions in Nigeria that have made a habit of stealing intellectual property from struggling investors who spend time and resources on business proposals only to find the proposals being blatantly implemented by other organizations.
The question, however, is whether NUC and its partner in the case of copyright violation on this occasion will be magnanimous enough to resist the temptation to appeal the verdict — which would send signals to other institutions that intellectual property theft is dangerous. Should they take this option, they would be ecouraging others to excercise more due diligence checks in their operations.
The option of fight the bad fight with their collective “might” is simply too risky for their respective reputations. For the first defendants, which should actually be the spearhead of protection of intellectual property, it is not in their interest to contest the verdict.
For ZAIN (AIRTEL), with a dubious history of ownership, name and changes over the years, this is a face-‘saving opportunity to redeem a battered image.
The best they can do is plead for reduction of the fine.
*Muhammad is a business analyst based in Abuja.