A federal high court in Lagos has awarded N10 million in damages against Wema Bank in a suit by Nneoma Anosike, an American-based Nigerian model, over the infringement of her intellectual property.
The plaintiff, who is a 2014 brand ambassador of Pepsi Cola Nigeria, had sued through her father, Frank Anosike, as lawful attorney, claiming N75 million against the bank as general damages for passing off her services.
She is also claiming N20 million as damages for breach of her privacy by the bank advertising her photograph without her consent.
Nneoma is also seeking a public apology from the defendant to be advertised in national dailies in the US and Nigeria.
The plaintiff is further claiming two million naira as special damages of cost of action.
During hearing of the case, sole witness for the plaintiff, Anosike, had told the court that his daughter entered into a three-year management contract with an international firm, Ford Model Incorporated, New York, in 2014.
He said the plaintiff was granted a US visa through the instrumentality of Ford, following which she travelled from Nigeria to the US to continue her career solely under Ford.
According to the witness, on April 11, 2016, his daughter was requisitioned to attend a meeting with the board of Ford, where she was presented with photographic advert of her picture from Instagram, which was photo-edited by Wema Bank and further advertised on its website.
He said his daughter’s picture was used for the advert with the bank’s corporate logo beside her face and the words, “Be yourself, Everyone else is taken”.
According to him, the projection of Nneoma by the bank was with the aim of projecting the bank’s value and goodwill using her fame and popularity.
He told the court that the defendant’s action constituted a breach of Nneoma’s agreement with Ford Model, as it had caused her a retraction of contract extension by the firm.
In its judgement, the court awarded damages in the sum of N10million against the defendant, for passing off plaintiff’s services, and an order of injunction, restraining them from further passing off or enabling others to pass off the plaintiff’s professional services.
Also, the court granted an order, directing the defendant to tender a letter of apology to the plaintiff, and to publish a written apology in two dailies in the US, and in two national newspapers circulating around Nigeria.
However, the court refused to grant the order for N2 million special damages.