Banwo & Ighodalo Logo

Strengthening Intellectual Property Rights And Protection In Nigeria

As Nigeria increasingly becomes an important economic hub both in the West African sub-region and in the African continent as a whole, protection of the rights subsisting in IPs created in the country is not only strategic to the nation’s current drive to develop its non-oil sector but also central to its overall economic growth and development goals. Accordingly, there must be initiation of purposeful collaborations, going forward, between the government and the private sector organisations to identify, dialogue, and develop viable solution-frameworks to the problems of IPR infringements in Nigeria.

As with Copyright earlier discussed, the administration of Industrial Property (trademarks, patents and industrial designs) is marred with difficulties in the country in terms of registration, protection and enforcement.

Intellectual Property laws protect the interests of creators by giving them proprietary rights (Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)) over their creations. Infringement of IPRs undermines genuine investment in creativity, innovation and knowledge. Invariably, the granting of exclusive proprietary rights (usually in consideration of the disclosure of the creation), creates an incentive for creators to develop, produce, and distribute new and genuine goods and services for commercial purpose.

Notably, in countries where IPR holders are not protected under a clearly defined and efficiently administered intellectual property legal and policy framework, the economy bears the brunt of such inadequacies in terms of undeveloped potentials, hindered capacity for job creation (direct and indirect) and low international competitiveness. This, together with poor education system, comatose power system and unfavourable fiscal system accounts for stagnant growth of Nigeria’s industrial development. Reform efforts that are needed to strengthen IPRs in Nigeria will therefore necessarily have to holistically address the challenges identified, in the areas of registration, protection, enhancement and enforcement.

Ordinarily, trademarks, patented inventions and registered designs are incorporeal hereditaments with beneficial ownership rights in the holders. The exclusive rights granted to the proprietors of these incorporeal hereditaments, enable them to control the use of the intellectual property in which the rights subsist. Statutorily, exploitation of all or any of their rights by third parties must be with the permission of the proprietors, by way of licenses or assignments, usually upon provision by the relevant third party, of valuable consideration. However, registration of these industrial property rights is necessary for the proprietors to enjoy exclusive rights over them.

Registration of industrial property is hampered by an archaic and not very efficient administrative system in Nigeria, creating a disincentive to personal and corporate investment in creativity and invention, with the overall negative impact on human and economic development. Essentially, the most visible challenges are:

• Outdated Laws: Most of Nigeria’s IP laws are old and out of sync with the trends in the 21st Century global market place. For instance, the Trade Marks Act was enacted in 1967 (and even then, was a re-enactment of the UK’s 1938 Trade Marks Act) while the Patents and Designs Act was in 1971. Current laws fail to contemplate, and therefore do not provide means, for protecting new developments and innovations in industrial property. Stakeholders have repeatedly pointed out the fact that in other advanced climes (like in Britain from where most of Nigerian IP legislation took their roots), reforms of the laws have been carried out severally to enhance IPR protection, eliminate onerous statutory provisions and ensure conformity with new innovations.