Firm threatens Nigerian Breweries with legal action over alleged intellectual property use

Ama Brewery, Enugu

An Enugu-based engineering firm, Evanpower Engineering Limited, has accused Nigerian Breweries Plc (“NB Plc”) with reneging on payment of services rendered at its Ama, Enugu Brewery and for use of its intellectual property without compensation. The firm has threatened to go to court if NB fails to pay for the services rendered.

In a petition written to the Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries Plc, Mr Jordi Borrut Bel, Counsel for the firm, A.U.G Ojinta demanded payment of N750m and N3.7m respectively as fees for a blueprint design and work done respectively at the Ama Brewery in Enugu.

Ojinta said on Monday that the brewing company has refused to pay the engineering firm for use of a blueprint it designed to solve a control system challenge at its Ama Enugu Brewery.

“Our client instructs that sometime in the month of July, 2014, your company’s Access Control System at Ama was struck by lightning and the Superterm Control Panel at the security room at the entrance gate- 2 was damaged. Your company had advertised for the repair but because it was a highly specialist job, none of your registered vendors/contractors could handle or bided for it,” Ojinta said.

“As at that time, our Client was not registered as a Vendor/Contractor with your Company. She was sought for and she came. She repaired the broken down Superterm panel and got the panel to work with the Turnstile gate and that made history at your Ama plant as, from the information she got later, none of your Company’s registered contractors in Nigeria has ever being able to record such feat in your Access Control System. This particular service was paid for by your Company”.

The counsel for the plaintiff said that following the repairs of the Access Control System and payment, NB urged the engineering firm to register as a vendor/contractor with the company which it did on 21 May 2015.

Following the registration, the plaintiff was issued a work permit and instructed to work on revamping the Access Control System at the company’s Enugu plant sometime in June 2017.

“Our client was issued with work permits which covered the period June 4 to July 31, 2017 duly endorsed by the Automation Engineer, Engineering Manager, Safety Manager and Brewery Manager which actually was for revamping of the Access Control System and other ancillary work that included laying new cables at the Turnstile Gate at Ama plant. At the end PO was raised dated August 7, 2017 attesting to the fact that my client had been through with what my client was asked to do”, he stated.

Explaining further, Ojinta noted that, Evanpower Engineering Limited had before then developed a Blueprint for NB which was used in solving the Access Control System at the demand of the beer company’s automation engineer.

“The first part was made available to you through your said Automation Engineer in July 2017 while the second was in October 2017”, he said.

Ojinta said that Nigerian Breweries has discontinued the services of the engineering firm following completion of the work but without paying for the use of the blueprint.

He stated that NB acknowledged the receipt and use of his Client’s Blueprint vide her letter of June 14, 2018.

“Unfortunately, in the said letter, your company first claimed that our client never made it clear that she was to be paid for the use of the Blue Print, her intellectual property, by your company. That we consider very absurd to say the least. Secondly, she chose to confuse our client’s demand for payment of N3, 744, 153. 15 for services already rendered as contained in the technical report she had sent to you with her demand for payment for the use of her Blue Print.

“It is against the foregoing that our client has instructed us to demand and we demand that your company pay within 21 days from the receipt of this letter”, Ojinta said.

Nigerian Breweries has , however, denied any liability to the plaintiff, noting that there was no record of any transaction of such documented with the company.

In a letter by Nigerian Breweries Legal Manager, Operations, Mr Chidubem Aguguo, he stated that there was no merit in the claim by the engineering company.

“We reiterate that at no time did we commit to pay your client for any document (Whether quotation, blueprint or any other document whatsoever) submitted by it in respect of the reactivation of the access control system at our Ama Brewery (“Project”). Moreover, your client was duly paid for the work it did us, including the materials it supplied for the project.

“Thus we are not in any way indebted to your client to any amount whatsoever. We found the claim to be without merit and do hereby reject same in its entirety,” he added.

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