Do You Have An Understanding of Intellectual Property (IP) Laws That Impact Nigerian Businesses?

Do You Have An Understanding of Intellectual Property (IP) Laws That Impact Nigerian Businesses?

At the last Ecosystem hangout with Ingressive, a lot of questions and concerns were raised about the intricacies of IP laws, particularly in Nigeria. This has spurred us on to discuss the topic further in this edition. Based on the presentation from Aluko and Oyebode, we would be providing some facts and debunking some myths about IP Laws and how they impact businesses in Nigeria

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) defines Intellectual Property as creations of the mind (such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names and images used in commerce which are protected by law) which enable people to earn recognition and/or financial benefit from what they create/invent.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are legal rights, which may be claimed in respect of the product of the mind; they protect the creations from the human intellect and reward innovative activity. IP laws allow creators/inventors/innovators/authors to own and benefit from their works and innovations in the same way that they can own physical properties. They provide an enabling environment for creativity, innovation and profitability to flourish.

Below are 10 things you need to know about IPs

  1. Intellectual Property Rights are generally divided in to two categories: Industrial Property and Copyright
  • Industrial Property which includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications; and
  • Copyright which covers literary works (such as novels, poems and plays), films, music, artistic works (e.g., drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures) and architectural design.

2. Having an IPR in a foreign country does not automatically mean that your invention is also protected in Nigeria and vice versa; this particularly applies to patents.

3. The most common IPRs in Nigeria are patents, copyrights, trademarks and industrial design

a) Patents: an exclusive right granted for an invention (either a product or process) that offers either a new way of getting things done or a new technical solution to a problem. A patent provides patent owners with protection for their inventions for a limited period, generally 20 years.

b) Copyright: Copyright laws grant authors, writers, artists and other creators adequate protection for their literary and artistic creations.

c) Trademark: a unique and distinctive sign by which an individual or company’s goods or services are easily identified. They are used to distinguish one’s products or services from its competitors. The period of protection of trademark usually varies but the right can be renewed indefinitely upon payment of the corresponding fees.

d) Industrial Design: concerned only with the aesthetic value of a product and not its function

4. The major laws protecting intellectual property rights in Nigeria are the Copyrights Act, Trade Marks Act, Patents and Designs Act and the Merchandize Marks Act.

5. In the event of violation of the IPRs rights, the IPRs owner can obtain injunction against infringer(s), claim damages and account for profits from infringer(s). The laws also criminalize IPRs infringements and provide imprisonment terms for infringers of IPRs.

6. Forms of infringement of IPRs include piracy, counterfeiting, parallel importation, grey market products, broadcasting or exhibiting owner’s works without consent.

7. The sectors with the highest rate of IPR infringement include: Pharmaceuticals, building and construction materials, spare parts and car accessories, CDs and DVDs, luxury goods and fashion apparels, Phones and computer accessories, software components and published books.

8. IP is considered to be the most valued asset owned by a company and can be used as securities to obtain loan from financial institutions.

9. IPRs can be commercialised, transferred or exchanged for a consideration through the process of licensing, co-branding, franchising, securitization or assignment.

10. It is important to carry out an IP Audit and valuation before commercialising any IP. In an IP Audit, a structured review of the intellectual properties owned, used or acquired by a business is conducted in order to assess risk, remedy problems and implement best practices in IP asset management. IP audit helps businesses to make a proper account of its IP assets and analyze how the IP assets are used or unused.

Though start-ups face the prevalent problem of finance, it is still imperative for them to set aside funds to enable them business identify and protect their IPs. IP gives your investors, clients, customers and other stakeholders a tremendous sense of confidence in your business as it places you on the pathway of becoming a market leader in your area of operation.