Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court has ruled that Coca-Cola Nigeria Plc and its bottlers, Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC), must pay N3 million in damages for infringing on the copyright of Abdulmumineen Onilemarun. The court found that the defendants had unlawfully used Onilemarun’s calendar work on fasting time for Muslims in Kwara State during the Ramadan period without his consent or authority.
Onilemarun accused Coca-Cola and NBC of using his calendar work without permission, specifically for the Ramadan timing of the dawn meal and breaking of fasting in Kwara State in 2014 and 2015. He sought several reliefs from the court, including an award of N10 million in damages against the defendants for copyright infringement, breach of confidence, and unlawful reproducing and publishing of his copyrighted work.
The defendants, represented by their lawyer Peter Agboola, argued that a work must be original to be eligible for copyright protection. They claimed that there was no evidence of the plaintiff’s original work that they allegedly violated. They also stated that the calendars were used for educational purposes within the Muslim community during Ramadan and not for economic gain, hence no compensation was warranted.
In his judgment, Justice Osiagor focused on the determination of whether the plaintiff’s claim of copyright deserved protection and entitled him to the sought-after reliefs. He affirmed that the plaintiff’s work, “Ramadan Timing for Dawn Meal for Breaking of Fasting for Kwara State,” fell within the definition of literary works under the Copyright Act. The judge clarified that registration of copyright is not a prerequisite for copyright protection, emphasizing a previous case to support this point.
Consequently, Justice Osiagor awarded N3 million in general damages to compensate the plaintiff for the infringement of his copyright. The defendants were directed to pay this sum to Onilemarun.