May 21, 2024

Filmmaker, Zeb Ejiro Floors Actress at Trademarks Tribunal over ‘Domitila’

Filmmaker, Zeb Ejiro has floored actress, Anne Njemanze at the Trademarks Tribunal over the rightful ownership of the movie franchise “Domitila.”

In the ruling delivered by the Chief Registrar, Shafiu Adamu Yauri last Thursday, the Tribunal held that Anne  Njemanze’s application was malicious, insisting that all the documents issued to her were issued by the Commission in error.

Njemanze had trademarked the name “Domitilla and Device” on September 16, 2020 as her copyright upon learning of plans by the Ejiro to shoot a remake of the classic.

Chief Ejiro, MFR, thereafter approached the Trademarks Tribunal asking it to expunge the trademark given to Anne Njemanze.

“Upon a cursory review of the evidence and averments of the parties in this Petition, it would be clear that the Petitioner’s use of the DOMITILLA trademark predates that of the Opponent and the Applicant has adduced clear evidence of its proprietary rights to the trademark. It is in evidence before this Tribunal that the Respondent/Applicant has acted in the film’s series DOMITILLA 1 &2 for the Petitioner. All these evidences preferred by the Petitioner have not been contradicted by the Opponent and its trite that uncontradicted evidence are deemed admitted. I so hold,” The Tribunal held.

The Tribunal concluded that “For the reasons stated above, the proper action for the application of the Applicant/Respondent is “Refusal” and I so hold. The Tribunal hereby cancelled the acceptance letter and any other documents issued to the Applicant/Respondent in respect of DOMITILLA trademark application as prayed by the Petitioner. The said application was made by the Applicant in bad faith and therefore all documents issued in respect thereto for/and or in the hand of the Registrar are issued in error.”

Moments after the ruling, Mr Ejiro tweeted his victory, “Friends, help me thank God. Ann Njemanze was defeated woefully today at Trademark. I am the right owner of Domitila.”

A film-maker Tunji Bamishigbin commented on the verdict thus,”It is established that her registration was with the intent to deceive the court. Since she must have earlier deposed to an affidavit of ownership. And it has been proven that she lied on oath, can criminal proceedings not spring from there? Can she not be sued for perjury? And hopefully cool off behind bars for 10years plus. On the issue of possible criminal charges against Anne. If it is established that she lied in her affidavit to obtain the trademark, she risks prosecution.”

Another film-maker, Kabat submitted that there was actually no case, saying, “It would have served as a bad precedent if she had won.”

Ms Njemanze, famed for playing the lead character in the 1996 classic movie, ‘Domitilla’ sued the filmmaker for infringing on the name ‘Domitilla’ which she had trademarked.

According to court documents the actress has demanded N50 million from Mr Ejiro for the registered trademark infringement.

Also joined in the case against Mr Ejiro were Filmone Entertainment and Film Trybe Media.

Trademark registration in Nigeria gives the owner the right to use such registration to exclude others from violating or willfully copying or using by a third party without consent. A registered owner of a trademark may institute an action in court to block any infringements or unauthorized use of their trademarks. The owner of a registered trademark also has the right to oppose any future trademark registration that may infringe on its own trademark.

Also, Nigeria’s Intellectual Property Act states that copyright can be protected by registration with the Nigerian Copyright Commission. This protects the exclusive right granted to an originator of creative work to reproduce the job for a certain period.

Download full judgment here

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