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Barely two weeks after the expected reboot of the Nollywood classic, the producer of ‘Domitilla’, Zeb Ejiro, has resumed his copyright battle with actress Ann Njemanze.
The filmmaker, through his legal representative Rockson Igelige, has asked the Registrar of Trademarks, Patents and Designs to invoke Sections 11(b) and 38(b) of the Trademarks Act CAP T13 LFN 2004 to cancel the alleged registration. ‘Domitilla and Device’.
In 2020, Njemanze released the name “Domitilla” which made her famous in the Nigerian movie industry.
In March 2023, the actor sued Ejiro and two others for copyright infringement.
Njemanze, best known for playing the titular character in the classic 1996 film ‘Domitilla’. He sued the famous filmmaker for infringement of the name ‘Domitilla’ which had a trademark.
Court documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that the actor, among others, demanded N50m from Ejiro for alleged infringement of the registered trademark.
Filmone Entertainment and Film Trybe Media have also joined the lawsuit against Ejiro.
However, Ejiro, in a petition dated February 13, faulted Njemanze’s reasons for registering ‘Domitilla & Device’, asking for its cancellation, annulment and deletion from the Trademark Registry:
In a letter from his legal representative, Ejiro stated that Njemanze has no right to claim ownership of ‘Domitilla’.
Reasons for cancellation
Ejiro’s lawyer’s letter dated April 2023 states that Njemanz has no assets, goodwill or reputation in the word “Domitilla” separate from his role in the films “Domitilla” and “Domitilla 2”, which are the intellectual properties of the petitioner. , Ejiro
According to the writ, the applicant has been using “Domitilla” as an unregistered trademark since 1996 in connection with films and subject matter included in Class 41 of the Nigerian Trade Marks Registry.
“In 1996 and 1999, petitioner employed and paid petitioner to act as an actor in petitioner’s films ‘Domitilla’ and ‘Domitilla 2’. Therefore, the applicant knows that the applicant has been using “Domitilla” since 1996 and continuously.
“The petitioner owns the legally protected copyright of the scripts of the films ‘Domitilla’ and ‘Domitilla 2’, which were given to the petitioner in 1996 and 1999, respectively, as part of his engagement as an actor,” the letter said.
It also indicates that since the release of ‘Domitilla’ and ‘Domitilla 2’ in 1996 and 1999, the films have been continuously on the market, first on videocassettes; later on CDs, and now mainly as internet downloads under the applicant’s proprietary name
Njemanze’s purported registration application and/or “Domitilla & Device,” the letter says, offends Article 11 of the Trademark Act because its use is likely to deceive or cause confusion and is otherwise not entitled to protection in a court of law. of justice
“This probability arises from the prior and continuous use of the mark ‘Domitilla’ by the Claimant, for the films and subject-matter under Class 41 of the said Trade Marks Register which the applicant claims to have registered ‘Domitilla & Device’.”
Mr. Igelige has alleged that Njemanze has trademarked the word ‘Domitilla’ for use in extorting money from the film’s copyright owner.
He also stated that he knows that Ejiro has been associated with the word ‘Domitilla’ since 1996.
“Since 1996 and 1999 respectively, the applicant has established goodwill in respect of the films ‘Domitilla 1’ and ‘Domitilla 2’ throughout Nigeria, as the producer and owner of the property rights of the films, by virtue of the applicant’s continued use of ‘Domitilla.’ and in terms of issues.
“The relevant public purchaser acknowledges that ‘Domitilla’, when used in relation to films and subject matter in Class 41 of the Trademark Registry, is the films made and the services rendered by the applicant,” he said.
He further stated that Njemanze’s use of “Domitilla & Device”, purportedly claimed or registered as a trademark, would constitute misrepresentation to the public, would cause confusion or fraud, and would result in economic damages. Loss of good will of the applicant through the sale of movie tickets, internet downloads, dilution, etc.
Among others, he stated, Njemanz has since 1996 allowed Ejiro to use his image and photographs to promote the films ‘Domitilla’ and ‘Domitilla’ and ‘Domitilla 2’. posters and promotions.
The applicant has known since 1996 that the applicant used “Domitilla” as the name of a character in the film; in the title of the films, “Domitilla” and “Domitilla 2”; and to advertise/promote the movie “Domitilla” and Domitilla 2. Petitioner has never challenged petitioner’s use of the word “Domitilla” and its image since 1996, prior to the commencement of this action.
He asked the Registrar of the Trademarks Commission to invoke sections 11(b) and 38(b) of the Trademarks Act CAP T13 LFN 2004 to cancel the purported registration of the Applicant’s “Domitilla and Device”.
The crime-drama film tells the story of a young Domitilla Junior who embarks on romantic and adventurous escapades to survive. He and his group of prostitute friends are unfortunately caught up in the mysterious death of a politician and will have to do everything they can to prove their innocence.
Domitilla had famous actors like Njemanze, Sandra Achums, Kate Henshaw, Adah Ameh and Enebeli Elebuwa to name a few.
Although the main character, Njemanze, had previously starred in a successful film “True Confession”, his role in “Domitilla” catapulted him to star status.
The movie also instantly made celebrities like Ada Ameh and the late Alex Lopez.
Earlier in April, which was highly anticipated ‘Domitilla: The Reboot’ premiered at FilmHouse Cinemas in Lekki, Lagos.
The star-studded event was attended by prominent Nollywood icons including Kate Henshaw, Fred Amata, Zeb Ejiro and many more.
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