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Zeb Ejiro Battles Ann Njemanze Over Legal Rights of Domitila

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Zeb Ejiro Battles Ann Njemanze Over Legal Rights of Domitila

Zeb Ejiro a veteran Nollywood movie maker is in a legal battle with Ann Njemanze a Nollywood actress over ownership of Domitila, a 90s classic movie.

ENigeria Newspaper reports that almost three decades after the success of the movie – Domitila , Zeb Ejiro decided to partner with other movie companies such as FilmOne Entertainment and Film Trybe Media to produce a sequel of the movie.

Ann Njemanze was reportedly invited on board again to feature in the sequel.
They had allegedly finalized their deal before she suddenly made a U-turn and slammed Ejiro with a lawsuit that he infringed on her trademark.
You would recall that ‘Domitila 1& 2′ were first produced in 1996 and 1999 by the veteran movie producer, Ejiro with Ann Njemaze employed by Ejiro as it’s lead character alongside other veteran actors such as, the late Enebeli Elebuwa, Kate Henshaw, late Adah Ameh for the original release of the classic movie.

However, in a twist of event the actress who is now the plaintiff, in her statement of claim in Suit no FHC/L/CS/2305/22, which was filed by her lawyers led by Bartholomew Aguegbodo, had accused the defendants, Zeb Ejiro, Filmone Entertainment and Film Trybe Media, who are movie producers, script writers and directors of infringing in the exclusive right of her trademark, ‘Domitila & Device’, which she registered on 16th September, 2020.

She demanded N50 million from the defendants for the loss occasioned by the infringement of the said registered trademark. And another N5 million naira for cost of litigations and lawyers fees incurred.

Njemanze also asked the court for an order of injunction restraining the defendants or any other person from using her trademark or any other mark that is deceptively similar to the registered trademark.

However, one of the defendants, Zeb Ejiro in an ongoing legal battle over the legitimate owner of ‘Domitila’ accused Njemanze in a suit filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos of indulging in a gold-digging exercise.

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Ejiro, who is an agent of Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited in a statement of defence filed by his lawyers led by Rockson Igelige, said the present action by the plaintiff is a gold-digging exercise instituted with the intent of making undue financial gains from the defendants.
According to Ejiro, the plaintiff was employed by her principal, Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited in 1996 and 1999 as a lead character in a movie tittled ‘Domitila 1’ and ‘Domitila 2’ respectively.

The defendant argued that Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited has been using the title for its works before the plaintiff who was merely employed as a character in the work proceeded to trademark the name for her selfish gains.
“Further or in alternative to the immediate paragraph above, the defendants aver that the plaintiff’s alleged application for and or purported registration of ‘Domitila and Device’ as a trade mark, if at all, is intentioned to enable the plaintiff stay as a squatter on the Trade Marks Register with the view to trafficking and or trading only the trade mark of ‘Domitila and Device’ itself to the economic detriment of the 1st Defendant’s principal (Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited).

“The defendants stated that the plaintiff has no goodwill and reputation in the word, ‘Domitila’.
The 1st defendant’s principal (Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited) has used the word, ‘Domitila’ as a film character and as the title of its films, ‘Domitila 1 and Domitila 2’ since 1996 till date thereby building strong goodwill and widespread reputation in the word, ‘Domitila’ in respect of the class of goods and services the plaintiff alleged or purport to have applied for registration and/or registered ‘Domitila & Device’ as a trade mark.

“At all material times, the plaintiff is aware of the global scale of advertising and promotion of the film ‘Domitila 1 and Domitila 2’ by the 1st defendant’s principal (Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited) in collaboration with DAAR Communication Ltd, owners of Africa Independence Television network since 1996. At all material times, the plaintiff is aware and or knows the films, ‘Domitila 1 and Domitila 2’ have been exhibited in many International Film Festivals by the 1st defendant’s principal (Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited), and also uploaded on Youtube.
“In September 2001, the 1st defendant’s principal (Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited), and the 1st defendant in conjunction with The French Cultural Center, Lagos exhibited and screened the films, ‘Domittila 1 and Domittila 2’ in Lagos State as part of an educational tour for school students,” the statement said.

The statement further added that “the plaintiff has consented in allowing the 1st defendant’s principal (Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited) to use the plaintiff’s image, voice and photograph in promoting the films, ‘Domitila 1 and Domitila 2’ since 1996.

“The defendants further stated that the plaintiff has been aware since 1996 of the 1st defendant’s principal (Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited) use of the word, ‘Domittila’ as the name for a film character; as the title of the films, ‘Domitila 1 and Domitila 2’; and for advertising / promotion of the film, ‘Domitila 1 and Domitila 2’.

“The plaintiff has thereby acquiesced in such use of the word, ‘Domitila’ and has never challenged the 1st defendant’s principal (Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited) use of the word, ‘Domitila’ at all before this action was commenced. The defendants aver that the National Film and Video Censors Board also approved and rated the film ‘Domitila 1’ as 18 under the application of the 1st defendant’s principal (Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited) before it was released to the public in 1996 and 1999, in compliance with the law.

“The defendants aver that since the respective release of ‘Domitila 1 and Domitila 2’ in 1996 and 1999, the films have continuously been in the market, first in Video Cassettes; later in Compact Discs, and now majorly as internet downloads all under the proprietary name of Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited.
“Further to the above, the 1st defendant states that the present action by the plaintiff is a gold-digging exercise instituted with the intent on making undue financial gains from the defendants.”
Ejiro has in turn sued Njemanze for breach of confidence over the act of exposing confidential information.

He asked her for N500 million for making use of confidential information that she had access to, during her role as an actress in the production of ‘Domitila 1 & 2’.

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