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Court orders Coca-Cola to pay N3m for Ramadan copyright infringement



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Coca-Cola Nigeria Plc and its bottlers, Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC), were fined by the Lagos Federal High Court for utilising a publisher’s writings for religious reasons without his permission or authority.

The court’s judge, Justice Daniel Osiagor, accused Coca-Cola Plc and its bottlers of violating Abdulmumineen Onilemarun’s work on the fasting times for Muslims in Kwara State during the month of Ramadan.

As a result, Justice Osiagor ordered Coca-Cola Plc to compensate Onilemarun with the sum of N3 million.

Through his attorney, Abdullahi Ibrahim, Onilemarun accused Coca-Cola Plc of violating his rights by exploiting the Ramadan timing for the morning meal and breaking of fast in Kwara State in 2014 and 2015 without his permission, licence or assignment.

He had therefore urged the court to make in his favour the following reliefs; “an award of damages of N10 million against Coca-Cola for infringement of copyright by way of unlawful reproducing unlawful publishing and unlawful distributing of his copyright work in the Ramadan Timing for Dawn Meal & Breaking of fasting for Kwara State, 2014, without his consent, licence and assignment.


“An award of damages of N10 million against Coca-Cola for breach of confidence of secret information and his secret idea for making accurate Ramadan timetable by using the said information and idea in producing Coca-Cola Ilorin Ramadan Timing June/July 2015 in the course of their trade as well as for infringement of copyright by way of unlawful reproducing and unlawful publishing of substantial similarity of the plaintiff’s particular method in the copyrighted work of the Ramadan Timing for Dawn Meal and Breaking of Fasting for Kwara State, 2015, without his consent, licence and assignment.

“An order of accounts of profits made by Coca-Cola in Kwara State, between 29 June 2014 and 28th July 2014 as well as between 17 June 2015 and 16ih July 2015.

Muslim faithful attending Christmas Church service in Kaduna

“An order sharing to him 40 per cent of total profits made by the Coca-Cola in Kwara State, between 29th June 2014 and 28th July 2014 as well as between 17th June 2015 and 16th July 2015. And an award of costs of this action against the defendants.”

However, through their attorney, Peter Agboola, Coca-Cola Plc and its bottlers, NBC Limited, urged the court to reject the writer’s lawsuit against them as lacking merit.


During the trial of the lawsuit, Coca-Cola maintained that the work of the cited author was not literary for which copyright would apply.

Additionally, they contended that a work must be original to qualify for copyright protection, meaning that adequate effort must have been made to give the work an original character.

In addition to the aforementioned, they informed the court that there was no proof of the plaintiff’s original work, which they claimed they had breached.

They further informed the court that the plaintiff had granted them a licence and that he had agreed to the exploitation of the work and accepted the risk voluntarily.


In conclusion, they argued that since the calendars were used for educational purposes of the Muslim community during Ramadan rather than for any economic purpose, there was no agreement or intention of an agreement for reimbursement.

In rendering judgement in the case, Justice Osiagor raised only one question for decision: “Whether the Plaintiff’s claim of copyright has been proved to deserve protection and be entitled to the reliefs sought?” After carefully reviewing all of the submissions made by the parties, all of the exhibits tendered, and citing a huge number of authorities.

In determining the above, the judge held that; “the plaintiff’s suit is founded on his literary work, “Ramadan Timing for dawn meal for breaking of fasting for Kwara State”. Copyright Act by section 51 recognizes literary works to include: Novels, stories and poetical works, Letters, reports and memoranda, Lectures, addresses and sermons, and Written tables or compilations.

“From the above definition, a compilation of the “Ramadan Timing for dawn meal for breaking of fasting for Kwara State” is a literary work and I so hold.


“Coca-Cola’s argument that the copyright certificate of the Plaintiff does not protect any literary work as non was submitted to the Nigerian Copyright Commission, tiled “Ramadan Timing for dawn meal for breaking of fasting for Kwara State” is very misconceived as Copyright does not inure in Plaintiff’s favour only upon registration.

“It is trite that, Registration of copyright is not a precondition to the protection of the copyright. See Zain Nigeria. TY XTRA Productions Ltd & Anor (2021) LPELRS3534 (CA).

“Moreso, section 1(2)(a) of the Copyright Act. 2004 requires a party to prove that he has expended efforts into the work for him to be entitled to a legal right as the exclusive owner of the work, Paragraphs 26 and 27 of the statement of claim state as follows: “Paragraph 26: the Plaintiff avers that, by mere looking at both timetables, he discovered that, the sahur times (dawn meal times) of defendants’ timetable titled “Ramadan 2014” have holistic similarities with the Plaintiff’s timetable titled, “Ramadan Timing for dawn meal for breaking of fasting for Kwara State etc 2014.

“In response, the defendants pleaded in paragraphs 15 and 16 of the statement of defence as follows: “paragraph 15th the 2nd Defendant denies paragraphs 25, 26 and 27 of the Statement of claim and puts the Plaintiff to the strictest proof of the allegations therein. Specifically, the 2nd defendant denies giving any representation to the Plaintiff to expect any reply, recompense, or payment of any form of money or royalty or any wage, sum, salary, compensation, or any indication of any approval, consent or any form of acknowledgement in cash or in-kind for the production of the 2014 Ramadan Calendar.


“Paragraph 16: the second defendant avers, further to the above, and in denial of the relevant paragraphs of the statement of claims, that the comments to the first draft of the Ramadan Calendar sent to the plaintiff and the ones eventually published were so minimal and no labour, or sufficient efforts were expended by the Plaintiff in making comments on the draft submitted by the second defendant. There was no originality in the work as what the Plaintiff did was to merely compare the ones available on the internet which was to be published by the 2nd defendant with his lunar dates as speculated by the Muslim clerics. It was copied from the internet over which Plaintiff had no originality.

“From the above averments, it will appear that the very collaborative particulars of the plaintiff’s work copied by the defendant were not effectively controverted in the statement of defence were very evasive and argumentative. In Zenith Bank Plc v. Omenaka & Anor. (2016) LPELR-40327(CA) it was held that the law is well settled that specific allegation of facts contained in an affidavit must be specifically denied as general or bare or banal traverse or denial leaves such allegations of facts as deemed admitted and thus requiring no further proof…”

“Plaintiffs suit is founded on damages for Infringement of copyright, to wit: “infringement of a copyright by way of unlawful reproducing way and unlawful publishing of substantial similarity of his particular method in the copyrighted work of the Ramadan Timing for Dawn Meal & breaking of fasting for Kwara State, 2014 without his consent, license & assignment.”

“There is no singular doubt that the plaintiff’s Exhibit and the defendants produced are replicas of each other. The question the defendants have not been able to proffer an answer to is, “if the plaintiff’s timetable is accessible on websites as claimed?” Why engage the plaintiff to preview and forward the prayer calendar for 2014? Why did the defendants not continue the publication of their old Ramadan timetables allegedly faulted by Plaintiff?


“Section 6(1)(a)(i) of the Copyright Act. 2004 confers copyright in a work to have the exclusive right of doing the following:
a. In the case of a literary or musical work, to do, authorize the doing of the following acts: reproduce the work in any material form; publish the work; Thus, the evidential burden is on the defendant to establish that they had the consent or authority of the plaintiff to publish his correct version of the Ramadan Timetable as only the plaintiff has the exclusive right to control the doing in Nigeria of the above acts, no other person can use his work without licence or authorization. I, therefore, find in the plaintiff’s favour and resolve the sole issue in the affirmative.

“The plaintiff is entitled to damages which will fully compensate him for his loss. See the Hebridean Coast (1960) 2 ALL E.R 85. The court awards the sum of N3 million as general damages in favour of the Plaintiff for infringement of his copyright.”

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