The Registry, a Commercial Law Department of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, equally adjourned for ruling, if the parties in the dispute failed to reach an agreement of settlement.

Shefiu Adamu, the Registrar of the department, made the pronouncement at the resumed hearing of a petition filed by Ejiro, seeking revocation of a purported registration of ‘Domitilla and Device’ by Njemanze.

The petitioner is also seeking the expunging of the ‘Domitilla and Device’ entry from the Register of Trade Marks.

Domitilla is the title of a movie produced in 1996 by Zeb Ejiro, which starred Njemanze as the lead character.

The movie which also featured other veteran actresses such as Sandra Achums, Kate Henshaw and the late Ada Ameh, portrays the life of a young woman struggling to make ends meet as a Lagos prostitute.

A sequel, Domitilla 2, was also produced and released in 1999 by Ejiro, while a remake was released in 2023.

Years after the release of Domitilla 1 and 2, Njemanze reportedly trademarked the name ‘Domitilla and Device’ on September 16, 2020.

Ejiro, through his team of lawyers, led by Rockson Igelige, approached the registry to challenge the purported registration of the brand ‘Domitila and Device’ by Njemanze.

Igelige told the registry that the said trademark had been in use since 1996 by Ejiro in connection with films and matters which fell under class 41 of the Register of Trademarks in Nigeria.

Igelige said that both in 1996 and 1999, the petitioner employed and paid the applicant to act in his films Domitilla and Domitilla 2 adding that the applicant knew of the petitioner’s prior and continuous use of the name since 1996.

“The petitioner owns the statutorily protected copyright of the film scripts of Domitilla and Domitilla 2, which were handed to the applicant in the course of her engagement as an actress in 1996 and 1999 respectively.

“Since the respective release of the films 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 the petitioner.

“The applicant has no goodwill and reputation in the word, Domitilla, separate from her role in the films Domitilla and Domitilla 2, which are intellectual properties of the petitioner.

“The petitioner has continuously used Domitilla as a created film character and as the title of his films, Domitilla and Domitilla 2 since 1996 till date, thereby building strong goodwill and widespread reputation in the word.

“Domitilla in respect of the class of goods and services the applicant alleged to have applied for registration and or purport to have registered Domitilla & Device as a trade mark.

“The applicant’s alleged application for registration and or the purported registration of Domitilla & Device offends section 11 of the Trade Marks Act,” he said.

Igelige further said that the use of the trademark by Njemanze was likely to deceive or cause confusion and might bring a serious challenge to the petitioner to protect the name in the court of law.

He, therefore, urged the registry to cancel, revoke and expunge the purported registration of ‘Domitilla and Device’ from the Register of Trade Marks.

Marvin Ibem, the lawyer to Njemanze, told the registry that his client had filed a 98-paragraph reply against the petition to justify the registration.

He said that the petition lacked merit and urged the registry to trash it out in its entirety.

“I adopt our responses to the petition dated April 20, we urge the registry to dismiss the petition, the trademark has no jurisdiction to cancel the registration.

“The applicant has satisfied all requirements of the law to acquire the trademark,” Ibem stressed.

Premium Times reports the Nollywood actress is suing the legendary filmmaker along with Filmone Entertainment and Film Trybe Media.

Njemanze, who rose to fame after playing the titular character in the 1996 original film, trademarked the name, ‘Domitilla’ on September 16, 2020.

This was the same year that Zeb Ejiro Productions, FilmOne Entertainment, and Omoni Oboli’s Dioni Vision announced plans to make a sequel to the original movie.

In addition to the ₦‎50 million, Njemanze is also asking for ₦‎5 million for the cost of litigation and lawyers fees incurred, as well as for an order of injunction restraining the defendants or any other person from using her trademark (Domitila) or any other mark that is deceptively similar to the registered trademark.

While her legal representative, Bartholomew Aguegbodo, has reportedly declined to comment on the issue, he did confirm to Premium Times that the case is in court.

The case was filed in the Federal High Court of Nigeria with suit number FHC/L/CS/2305/2022.

The veteran filmmaker has reacted by serving the actress with a countersuit for ₦‎500 million.

He described her lawsuit as a gold-digging exercise in a statement of defence filed by his lawyers led by Rockson Igelige.

Speaking with Premium Times, Ejiro said, “I offered her ₦‎5m, not knowing she had gone behind me to trademark my intellectual property. I have been using the name for a long time. I have taken ‘Domitilla’ to film festivals all over the world. We had to abandon the script and start a new script. The next thing was she came with the police calling a thief in public. She even went with the police to FilmOne, our partner, to search their office. I tried to reach out to her, but she refused to pick up my calls. I had to ask the heads of different guilds to intervene.”

He also revealed that he did offer her a role in the remake.

In his words, “Now it’s time for a reboot, but because she is now much older, we decided to give her a role as the aunt to one of the characters, but she was asking for ₦17m for only five scenes.”

Ejiro and the other defendants have issued a statement denying her allegations.

“The 1st Defendant’s principal (Zeb Ejiro Productions Limited) has been using the word continuously since 1996 in marketing the films before the date of the Plaintiff’s alleged application for registration and or purported registration of ‘Domitilla & Device’ as a trade mark,” their defence reads.

According to Ejiro’s legal representative, Igelige, he has been instructed by the filmmaker to serve the actress with a countersuit for breach of confidence.

“We will be asking her for ₦‎500m for using confidential information that she has access to during her role as an actress in the production of ‘Domitilla’ 1 and 2,” he told Premium Times.

The reboot of ‘Domitilla’ is set to be released early next month. Like the original, it follows sex workers, four in particular—Ekwutosi, Fisayo, Promise, and Madam Vee—and the choices they make and the domino effects of their choices.

It stars Chiwetalu Agwu, Elvina Ibru, Onyinye Odokoro, Stan Nze, Teniola Aladese, Uzoamaka Doris Aniunoh, Ejiro Onojaife, Seun Ajayi, Okey Jude, Chioma Okafor, Chinyere Wilfred, and Sonny Mcdon.

For now, we do not know if this ongoing lawsuit will affect the release of ‘Domitilla: The Reboot,’ scheduled for release on April 7, 2023.

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