Court orders INEC to pay company N17.3 billion damages

INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega ... Photo Credit:234NEXT

The Nigerian company sued INEC for infringing on its patent right

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday awarded N17.3 billion damages to a private company, Bedding Holdings Ltd, BHL, against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Justice Ibrahim Auta, in the judgment, held that INEC and its Chairman, Attahiru Jega, infringed on the patent rights of BHL in the contract purchase of DDC machines in 2010. Mr. Auta ordered INEC to pay the company the sum which is 50 per cent of the value of the contract awarded by INEC.

“From the evidence before this court, it is clear that the plaintiff actually owned a subsisting patent right over the process, application and the use of DDC machines for voters’ registration. Section 6 of the nation’s Patent and Design Act preclude anybody from using a patented invention without the consent of the inventor. So, INEC should always play by the rule so that its conduct does not affect the outcome of elections,” the judge said.

Mr. Auta agreed with the argument and evidence of the counsel to the plaintiff, John Okoriko, before the court, that BHL was the sole owner of the patent right. He held that the company’s right was infringed by the conduct of the defendants, except the Attorney- General of the Federation, AGF, who was not a party to the transaction.

Mr. Auta, however, noted that although the AGF was not a party to the transaction but as the nation’s chief law officer, the AGF was relevant in the execution of orders made against the government or its agents.

“From the preponderance of evidence before the court, the plaintiff and its Chairman, Chief Sylvester Odigie, do not appear as people, who wish to reap where they did not sow. The country’s president, in 1997, awarded Odigie Nigeria’s highest order of honour and dignity for productivity,” the judge said.

He also said that the BHL chairman received an order of merit for his remarkable contribution to national development as the most productive individual.

Mr. Okoriko had argued that INEC and its chairman infringed on the patent right of his client.

“The INEC and its chairman infringed on my client’s patent right on the process and application of DDC machines for the compilation and collection of various bio-data. They awarded the contracts for the purchase and deployment of the DDC machines for the compilation of the voters register without the consent of BHL. By so doing, INEC and its chairman are liable,” he said.

The counsel to INEC and Mr. Jega, Abubakar Mahmoud, had queried the legitimacy of the plaintiff’s claim to a patented right over a process that existed before the purported patent was granted. He urged the court to dismiss BHL’s claim.

INEC had in 2010 awarded the DDC contract of N34.5 billion to Haier Electrical Appliances Corporation Limited, Zinox Technologies Ltd and Avante International Technology.


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