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Google asks court to dismiss Nigerian’s $150 million damages suit

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Google has made itself an unaccountable trove of information

Google LLC, an American multinational technology company, has urged a Federal High Court, Abuja to dismiss the 150 million dollar suit filed by a Nigerian, Mr Chianugo Peter, against it and GoDaddy.com.

Google, the second defendant in the suit, told Justice Obiora Egwuatu that Mr Peter’s claims were unmeritorious, unworthy and should be dismissed.

The company made the averment in its statement of defence dated November 9 and filed on November 10 by its lawyer, Mark Mordi.

Mr Peter had sued GoDaddy.Com LLC and Google LLC as first and second defendants over allegations bordering on the shutdown of his YouTube Audio domain name after eight years of promotional and marketing works.

Through his lawyer, Emmanuel Ekpenyong of Fred-Young & Evans LP, the plaintiff filed the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/238/2023 on April 14. Mr Peter sought the court declaration that he registered the YouTube Audio business name and commenced trademark registration on the logo of the business name.

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He also said he secured the YouTubeAudio.com domain name from GoDaddy in good faith to conduct genuine business to host his application thereon to attract users.

He also sought a declaration that since GoDaddy and Google encouraged him to make use of the YouTubeAudio.com domain name for the past eight years, “they are estopped from claiming that the domain name infringes any of their trademarks or deny the plaintiff” the use of the YouTubeAudio.com domain name.

“A declaration of this honourable court that the plaintiff is entitled to compensation from the defendants for the loss of the YouTubeAudio.com brand and goodwill which has accrued on the brand and domain name for eight years of promotional and marketing works from 2nd July 2015 to 7th December 2022,” said court documents filed by the plaintiff.

Therefore, Mr Peter sought an order directing the defendants to pay him $50 million for promotional and marketing works on the YouTube Audio business name and YouTube Audio.com domain name for eight years, from July 2, 2015, to December 7, 2022.

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“An order of this honourable court directing the defendants to pay the sum of $100,000,000 to the plaintiff for loss of anticipated profits associated with the brand equity and goodwill of YouTube Audio and YouTube Audio.com domain name,” Mr Peter prayed the court.

He also demanded “an order of this honourable court directing the defendants to pay the plaintiff the sum of N50,000,000 (fifty million naira) to enable the plaintiff to carry out fresh registrations of its new name and secure an alternative domain name to host its application to attract users,” including “directing the defendants to pay the sum of N10,000, 000 (ten million naira) paid to the plaintiff’s counsel for the prosecution of this suit.”

GoDaddy.Com LLC was neither represented in court nor filed any application since the commencement of the case.

In its reaction, Google argued that Mr Peter did not act in good faith when he registered the YOUTUBE AUDIO business name and the YouTubeAudio.com domain name.

According to the company, the plaintiff was aware of his lack of bona fide claim because he approached it before he commenced operation “and acknowledged the second defendant (Google)’s rights. It gave reasons Mr Peter should not be entitled to any of the reliefs sought in his statement of claim.

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According to Google, the plaintiff does not own the YOUTUBE trademark nor has a bona fide claim to use or register any mark that incorporates or is similar to the YOUTUBE trademark.

“The second defendant is the international owner of the duly registered and famous ‘YOUTUBE’ word and ‘YOUTUBE GO’ logo trademarks in Nigeria and worldwide. The second defendant started using its YOUTUBE trademark in February 2005 internationally.

“In addition, the second defendant’s YOUTUBE trademark was first registered in Nigeria in 2007. Such use and registration in Nigeria was prior to the plaintiff’s use in Nigeria, which only commenced in 2015,” the company argued.

When the matter was called on Monday, the plaintiff’s counsel, Jude Otakpor, told the court that while he received Google’s statement of defence, GoDaddy had yet to appear in court.

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The lawyer who appeared for Google, Okimute Ohwahwa, said she had an application for an extension of time to regularise their processes. Ms Ohwahwa said their statement of defence was dated Nov. 9 and filed November 10.

Mr Otakpor did not oppose Ohwahwa’s oral application, and the judge granted it. Mr Otakpor, however, sought an adjournment to enable them to file a reply to Google’s statement of defence.

The judge, who adjourned the matter until February 12, directed that a hearing notice be issued to GoDaddy.

NAN

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