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Patent violation: Court to hear N50 billion suit against INEC, fixes May 27 for opening trial

THE Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed Monday, May 27, for the hearing of a suit against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and two others, seeking N50 billion as compensation for the violation of patent rights to election materials.

The case, with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1537, is also seeking to prevent INEC from further using transparent ballot boxes, permanent voters’ cards, among other materials patented by the applicant, Bedding Holdings Limited (BHL), without its approval.

Other respondents in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation and the Registrar of Patents, Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

In its originating motion filed on December 13, a copy of which was obtained by The ICIR, the company prays the court to declare INEC’s “continuous contempt” as illegal, to compel the commission to abide by court judgements delivered in its favour in 2012 and 2014, to direct the commission to pay exemplary damages of N50 billion for right infringement, and to restrain it from further using, without prior consent, the transparent ballot boxes, direct data capturing machines, electronic card readers, permanent voters; cards and the Proof of Address System Scheme.

Sylvester Osadolo Odigie, BHL’s chief executive officer, in his affidavit written in support of the motion, said it would be in the interest of justice for the court to grant his company’s application as it continues to “suffer great financial loss and hardship due to the act of the respondents in deliberately refusing to pay the royalties accruable to the applicant for the patented materials.”

Giving an ex-parte ruling in December, the court restored its judgement of July 5, 2015, affirming the patent rights of BHC and the implications of the rights. Justice Nnamdi Dimgba also gave permission to the firm to commence the process of enforcing the earlier judgement delivered by Justice Adamu Bello.

The case was adjourned to January 15 to allow the court hear the motion on notice filed for the enforcement of the judgement.

The ICIR reported in January 2014 that the Federal High Court awarded against INEC the sum of N17.3 billion, being half the cost of the items imported for the election, which Bedding Holdings claimed would have been “minimum reasonable royalty accruable” to it.

The company had sued the electoral body for not seeking its consent as the owners of the patent over the use of a data capturing system and transparent, collapsible ballot boxes in Nigeria before awarding a contract for the supply of the electoral materials used in the 2011 general election.

The court granted all the reliefs sought by the plaintiff, including a declaration that the plaintiff is the bonafide owner of the patent rights and that INEC infringed on the said rights by procuring certain materials without the plaintiff’s prior consent.

The court also stood by its ruling in 2012, read by Justice Adamu Bello, which had declared as illegal the use of the transparent ballot boxes in the Edo gubernatorial election and barred INEC from using the patented products for elections without the express permission and license of the plaintiff.

INEC has, however, gone on to organise several elections, including 2014 gubernatorial elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States, as well as general elections in 2015 and 2019, without the active involvement or consent of the statutory patentee.

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