What you should know about Intellectual Property Rights in Nigeria

All over the world, intellectual properties are priceless assets of individuals, businesses and groups even though they are largely non-tangible.

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On 8 February, 2008 the Supreme Court of Nigeria highlighted intellectual properties using the case of DUWIN PHARMACEUTICAL AND CHEMICAL CO. LTD V. BENEKS PHARMACEUTICAL & 2 ORS. According to the court, intellectual properties comprise a broad class of property, similar to real estate (land), and chattels (movable physical goods). From this definition, intellectual properties are classified into four categories—with four different kinds of rights:

  • Patent
  • Copyright
  • Trademark, and
  • Trade Secrets.

As a type of property, intellectual property (IP) has that unique characteristic of being ethereal; of the mind, intangible, with no corporeal existence; hence, “intellectual property”. With a tangible object, property rights extinguish when the object is destroyed. With IP, since there is nothing physical, property only lasts for as long as the law says.

To ensure uniformity of law across international boundaries, intellectual property is governed by legislations enforced through federal constitutions and international treaties. However, due to the priceless and valuable nature of these classes of intellectual properties, certain provisions of the federal/international laws require collaboration with local, state or provincial law enforcement agencies. Meziesblog therefore provides a guide on what steps you can take to protect your intellectual property rights from infringement, abuse, and theft.

PATENTS AND DESIGNS: This is defined as an exclusive privilege granted to an inventor to make, use or sell an invention for a set number of years. See; SUNDAY UZOKWE V. DANSY INDUSTRIES NIG. LTD SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA Friday, 18th January, 2002 SC. 134 1999.

In other words, patent covers inventions and innovations created by a person or group of persons. This class of intellectual property is created by virtue of the Patent and Design Act and can be protected by registering it with Patent Registry, Commercial Law Department of Federal Ministry of Industry.

COPYRIGHT: This is defined as the exclusive right to produce or reproduce (copy), to perform in public or to publish an original literary or artistic work, pursuant to a statute usually called the “Copyright Act”, or some similar name. See: OMNIA NIGERIA LIMITED V. DYKTRADE LIMITED SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA Friday 13th July, 2007 SC. 176/2003.

In Nigeria, this class of intellectual property is created by the Copyright Act. It is protected by the same law, and such rights are acquired by registering same with the Nigerian Copyright Commission.

TRADEMARK: This has been defined as generally distinctive symbols, pictures, or words that sellers affix to distinguish and identify the origin of their products. Trademark status may also be granted to distinctive and unique packaging, color combinations, building designs, product styles, and overall presentations. It is also possible to receive trademark status for identification that is not on its face distinct or unique but which has developed a secondary meaning over time that identifies it with the product or seller.

The owner of a trademark has exclusive right to use it on the product it was intended to identify and often on related products. Service-marks receive the same legal protection as trademarks but are meant to distinguish services rather than products. See: MAERSK LINE V. ADDIDE INVESTMENT LIMITED SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA Friday 26th April, 2002 SC. 248/2000.

In Nigeria, this class of intellectual property is created by the Trademark Act. It is protected by registering same with the Trademark Registry of the Commercial Law Department of the Federal Ministry of Industry.

 TRADE SECRETS: This has been defined as a type of intellectual property that comprise of formulas, practices, processes, designs, instruments, patterns, or compilations of information that have inherent economic value because they are not generally known or readily ascertainable by others, and which the owner takes reasonable measures to keep secret. In some jurisdictions, such secrets are referred to as confidential.

In Nigeria this type of intellectual property is protected under the laws of tort and contract. Most times, agreements are drafted and executed by the relevant persons to ensure that trade secrets are protected. This type of agreement may include non-disclosure agreement.

It is advisable that you take adequate steps—at the right time—to protect your intellectual properties.