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Court saves Reserve Bank of Malawi in K5,000 banknote case

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The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) Tuesday obtained an injunction staying a default judgement that had ordered it to pay architect Davie Chidyaonga damages for using a copyrighted image of Mzuzu Branch of the central bank without his permission.

On June 15 2022, the court had entered a default judgment against RBM for using the image of its Mzuzu branch on the K5,000 banknote without Chidyaonga’s consent.

In the default judgement, the court also declared that the copyrighted image of the Mzuzu building is Chidyaonga’s property.

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The court also ordered that Chidyaonga be entitled to damages payable in the circumstances.

The default judgement further said damages to be paid in the case were to be assessed.

However, the court has issued the injunction after hearing from RBM’s lawyer.

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“… it is hereby ordered and directed as follows: That the judgement in default obtained by the claimant be, and is hereby, stayed; that the defendant shall file application to set aside the default judgement within 14 days…,” the stay order reads.

In April last year, the High Court sitting in Blantyre stopped Chidyaonga, trading as DDC Designs, from selling RBM’s Mzuzu building.

Although issues to do with payment for his services were resolved by a judgement by Judge Annabel Mtalimanja on March 2 2017, Chidyaonga had claimed that he has the exclusive copyright to the building and nobody, including the bank’s officials, can occupy it without his licence or permission.

Chidyaonga is said to have obtained the exclusive rights to the RBM Mzuzu branch building from the USA Copyright Registration Index after the ruling of April 29 2020.

The architect believes that, since he got the rights after Mtalimanja’s ruling, the High Court ruling does not stop him from exercising his property rights, including those pertaining to licencing or selling it.

But, in his ruling, High Court Judge Ken Manda dismissed Chidyaonga’s arguments, saying occupying a building does not constitute an infringement of the copyright of the designer who made its designs.

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