Is the Sisi Eko Bag by Vierra Amber Protected by the Law?

  • Have you Ever been to Lagos?

 If you have ever been to Lagos, then most likely you must have come across the yellow and black buses popularly known as Danfo, this is where you would get to have a front row view to the Lagos Traffic in the most discomforting way. It is a Lagos Experience and out of this experience, Vierra Amber, a fashion illustrator created The Eko Bag Collection which tells an incredible story of what sitting in a Danfo can be like. This entails having no other option but surviving the traffic by eating the popular gala, for some eating Agege bread and for others entertaining themselves by reading the newspaper. In this bag collection, one of the designs known as the Sisi Eko bag stood out not just to her followers on Instagram & Twitter but to Olorunshola Emmanuel who saw a business opportunity of producing the Sisi Eko bag.

Emmanuel reached out to Vierra Amber with the intention to purchase the rights to the sis eko bag in order to manufacture the Bag. Considering the terms of the proposal from Emmanuel, the illustrator decided not to grant Emmanuel the permission to produce her design. Emmanuel who gave a pretty descriptive detail of his discussion with Vierra Amber on twitter acknowledged the fact that no license/authorisation was gotten from the illustrator. Well, Emmanuel went ahead to produce and advertise the sisi eko bag claiming that the design manufactured differed from the design created by Vierra. What do you guys think? On a scale of 1 to 10, how similar are the bags?

Personally, I don’t think the product is different from the original design illustrated by Vierra Amber, yes there are certain details that differ, the bag hand and shape but the primary features of the bag design was copied and pasted by Emmanuel Olorunshola which amounts to an infringement on the rights of Vierra Amber.

  • Is the Sisi Eko Bag Protected by the Law?

Section 14 (1) of the Nigerian Copyright Act provides that:

“ Copyright is infringed by any person who without the licence or authorisation of the owner of the copyright- (e) makes or has in his possession, plates, master tapes, machines, equipment or contrivances used for the purpose of making infringed copies of the work”

Flowing from the point of law, it is explicit that Vierra Amber has the exclusive right over her design which can be categorized as an Artistic Work subject to Section 1(c) of the Nigerian Copyright Act. The Section explicitly provides for the protection of artistic works such as the sisi eko bag design except the design was intended by the author to be multiplied through an industrial process(section 3 of the Nigerian Copyright Act).  

Did Vierra Amber intend to multiply her design through an industrial process?  Maybe, but let us analyse the facts. Let’s quickly delve into a story within the main story, So the Sisi Eko bag design was entered into the Femi Hand Bag Competition in April 2020 and the Sisi Eko bag alongside another bag from another designer emerged as the winning designs which is to be produced through the Femi Hand Bag production factory. Therefore it would seem that there was an intention to produce the bags through an industrial process but then we must acknowledge the fact that Vierra Amber is an illustrator and not a manufacturer. The sis eko bag was part of a collection of designs which by virtue of the law is protected upon its creation since copyright protection subsist automatically in a work from the moment the work is created.

  • What Action can Vierra Amber and Olorunshola take in order to resolve the dispute?

 Vierra Amber through her lawyer can file an action against Olorunshola Emmanuel in order to prohibit Olorunshola Emmanuel from manufacturing the designs.

Also, Olorunshola Emmanuel can seek for an amicable way in resolving the issue through any of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism in order to resolve the issue and maybe get a license to manufacture the bags.

  • Let’s Wrap it up

Reading the twitter thread of Olurunshola Emmanuel was really interesting. Although every day I hear people make the assumption that the law doesn’t protect creative’s in the fashion industry, but the law does.

In this instance, the infringement is glaring and the position of the law is clear. It is important to note that there are laws that protect the property of the mind and when an authorisation is not granted by the Owner, no right is transferred. Emmanuel saw an opportunity but didn’t understand that the law wasn’t in his favour.  This is why it is paramount that before making an investment into certain products you consult a lawyer.

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