The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has slated May 27 for hearing in a suit seeking among other reliefs, to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from further use of transparent ballot boxes, permanent voters' card and related devices for elections.
The suit, filed by a firm - Bedding Holdings Limited was seen by PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday.
The suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1537/2018, has the firm listed as the applicant, with INEC, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Registrar of Patents, Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry, listed as respondents.
The applicant in the suit wants among others to enforce two pending judgments given by the Federal High Court on June 5, 2012, and January 28, 2014, which affirmed the firm's exclusive patent rights over some inventions that form the core of INEC's electoral operations.
Bedding identified the inventions on which it has patent rights to include: "the Transparent Ballot Boxes (TBB), Electronic Collapsible Transparent Ballot Boxes (ECI'BB), Direct Data Capturing Machines, Electronic Card Reader (ECR), its derivable Permanent Voters' Card (PVC) and Proof of Address System Scheme (PASS) Embedded with the Concept of the Coded Metal Plate and the Process and Application of these products to produce the Voters' Register respectively."
The applicant wants an order, compelling the respondents to abide by the judgment of the court delivered on June 5, 2012, in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/82/2011 and on January 28, 2014, in suit: FHC/ABJ/CS/816/2010.
The applicant is also praying the court for an order, directing the respondents to pay it N50 billion "as exemplary damages for the continued use of the Transparent Ballot Boxes, Electronic Collapsible Transparent Ballot Boxes and Direct Data Capturing Machines for the registration of voters and or the collation/compilation and production of the voters' register" without its prior and express consent.
It equally seeks an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the respondents from using its inventions and anything derived thereof, without the prior and express consent, and "to declare any action or actions whatsoever and however or purported to have been taken in connection thereto, as illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and null."
On December 18, 2018, a judge of the Federal High Court, Nnamdi Dimgba, restored the judgment given by Adamu Bello on July 5, 2012, and gave Bedding the permission to commence the process of enforcing the judgment.
In a supporting affidavit, deposed to by its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sylvester Odigie, Beddings claimed that the respondents have continued to disregard the judgment of June 5, 2012, and a subsequent one of January 28, 2014, which further confirmed its (the firm's) exclusive patent rights over the said inventions.
Bedding stated that its core speciality is in the fabrication and manufacture of steel metal products such as transparent ballot boxes, electronic transparent boxes, among other products.
It added that: "On 12th January 1998 the applicant (Bedding) was issued with Certificate of Registration of Patent Rights No. RP 12994 and Registration of Industrial Designs Rights No. RD 5946 in and over the invention named Transparent Ballot Boxes ("TBB") by the 3rd respondent (Registrar of Patents).
"Also on 27th November 2006, the applicant registered and was issued with the Patent Rights No. RP 16642 and Copyright Designs No. RD 13841 in and over the invention named "Electronic Collapsible Transparent Ballot Boxes", an improved derivative of TBB, which integral features include the Electronic Card Reader (ECR) and it's derivable Permanent Voters' Card (PVC) thereof and Patent Rights NORP NG/P/2010/202, Proof of Address System/Scheme (PASS) (Embedded with the concept of the Coded Metal Plate) the process and application of which is used to produce the voters' register.
"The above-stated Patent and Industrial Designs Rights of the applicant is still valid and subsisting till date having been extended at various times by the 3rd respondent upon the application of the applicant.
"By virtue of the above and the applicant being the exclusive and bona fide patentee of the said Patent and Design Rights over the inventions named Transparent Ballot Boxes (TBB), Electronic Collapsible Transparent Ballot Boxes (ECTBB); Direct Date Capturing Machines, Electronic Card Reader (ECR), Permanent Voter's Card, (PVC) and Proof of Address System Scheme (PASS) Embedded with the Concept of the Coded Metal Plate and the Process and Application of these products to produce the voters' register respectively, the applicant and the 1st respondent (INEC) executed a licence agreement on the 29th day of January 2003 wherein the applicant granted to the 1st respondent license over Transparent Ballot Boxes ("TBB") till 29th of March 2003.
"Further to the above, the 1st respondent, in issuing out award letters to its agents and contractors with respect to the transparent ballot boxes, included a clause informing them of the applicant's right to the patent."
Bedding further stated that despite the subsistence of its patent rights over the inventions, the 3rd respondent, on October 14, 2010, issued similar certificates to three other firms in relation to the inventions "over which it already had exclusive patent rights".
The firm stated that upon the its "discovery of the multiple registrations and issuance of certificate of patent rights and/or designs rights to Tambco United Nigeria Limited and Anowat Project & Resources Limited in and over the exact product of the applicant," it filed the suit on January 11, 2011, on which the judgment of June 5, 2012, was given.
It said another judgment was also given in suit: FHC/ABJ/CS/816/2010 on January 28, 2014, by the court, which among others compelled the respondents (including INEC) to always obtain permission from the applicant (BHL) before buying or using the said inventions.
The firm stated that, "The 1st respondent, in deliberate and further defiance and contempt of the order of this honourable court, has perfected plans and are again taking steps to use the applicant's Transparent Ballot Boxes ("TBB") and Electronic Collapsible Transparent Ballot Boxes for the conduct of the 2019 general election without the consent, licence and authority of the applicant.
"The applicant has continued to suffer great financial loss and hardship due to the act of the respondents in deliberately refusing to pay the royalties accruable to the applicant for the patented materials used for conducting past general elections and other elections in the years between 2007 and 2018 despite the fact that there were appropriation for every election cycle for each of the patented materials illegally 'used.
"In spite of the judgments of this honourable court, the respondents have deliberately failed and neglected to comply or abide by the orders of this honourable court.
"The 1st respondent, in brazen disregard of the honourable court's orders, continued to make a pronouncement with respect to Continuous Voters Registration Exercise (CVR) at different times leading up to the year 2018.
"The respondents cannot claim ignorance of the existence of judgments and orders of this honourable court as same were published in The Nation Newspaper of Wednesday 4th of July 2012 in respect of Suit N0. FHC/ABJ/ CSI82/2o11 in respect of (TBB) and (ECTBB) and the applicant's letter of demand in respect of judgment sum in suit N0. FHC/ABJ/CS/816/2010 through its counsel, dated 12th February 2014.
"The applicant avers that one of the two patents used in the suit FHC/ABJ/CS/816/201O ECTBB is the Improved Derivative of (TBB) which electronic features include the Electronic Card Readers (ECR) or otherwise known as Optical Card Reader (OCR) and other implements.
"The applicant loses a minimum of N10, 000,000,000.00. (Ten billion naira only) for every election cycle conducted using the applicant's Transparent Ballot Boxes (TBB), Electronic ECollapsible Transparent Ballot Boxes (ECTBB), Direct Data Capturing Machines, Electronic Card Reader (ECR), its derivable Permanent Voters' Card, (PVC) thereof and Proof of Address System Scheme (PASS) Embedded with the Concept of the Coded Metal Plate and the process and application of these products to produce the voter's register respectively, without the applicant's consent, licence and authority."