Intellectual Property is an important asset and its value can only be fully realized and enjoyed only when fully protected. Nigeria has proven to be a major global hub for innovations in tech, music, movies, etc. The Nigerian FinTech and music industries’ annual monetary worth is said to be about $545 Million and $45 Million respectively. The Nigerian economy supports and values creativity and innovation and as a result, our laws make provisions for the protection of intellectual property. Intellectual Property includes trademarks, patents, copyrights, trade secrets and all form valuable assets which impacts on the value ascribed to a company for example in the event of an acquisition or disposal.
The protection of IP in Nigeria is mostly governed by the Trademark Act, and the Patents and Designs Act and the agency responsible is the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry of the Federal Ministry of Trade & Investment.
Nature of Intellectual Property
According to World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.[i]
A person’s Intellectual Property may be protected as a patent, copyright or a trademark. Patent protects your inventions such as when you invent something innovative i.e. a new software e.g. ChatGPT. Trademark protects the name, logo and symbols pertaining to your products or brand. Copyright protects your original works such as literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works, sound recordings, broadcasts including songs, movies, published articles, computer programmes, novels, etc. Patent and trademark must be registered before they can be protected from infringement or unauthorised use in Nigeria. Even though copyright can be registered in Nigeria, registration is not mandatory as original works are automatically protected when they are reduced into a definite form of expression from which it can be perceived, reproduced or communicated directly or with the aid of any machine or device.[ii]
The Benefits of Protecting your Intellectual Property
Intellectual property are assets and as a result they can be stolen, copied, adapted, and infringed upon in any possible way if not properly protected under the appropriate system created for their protection. The infringement would also not be redressable if the intellectual property is not protected. A well protected intellectual property guarantees the owner the following benefits:
- It protects your creativity as the author of the work. Protecting your intellectual property ensures that your creativity is not taken advantage of without your authorization, thus leading to loss of patronage from customer and loss of revenue.
- IP protections gives you a right to the exclusive use of your intellectual property. Any unauthorised use by any other person is an infringement that gives you the right to proceed against them to stop the unauthorised use and claim damages.
- Protecting your intellectual property protects your brand against reputational damage. Your intellectual property such as your brand name and logo distinguish your business and set it apart from your competitors. If your intellectual property is not protected, counterfeit goods could be sold or poor services delivered with your brand name and logo which would affect the reputation and overall goodwill of your business.
- It is a source of revenue or income. IP helps you to make money when you license, sell, or commercialize your creations or inventions.
- IP can be used as a security for example whilst raising funds for your business. For instance, patents of an invention can be used as a collateral for securing loan.
How to Protect your IP in Nigeria
It is very important that you take adequate measures to ensure you do not disclose your IP to anyone before they are fully registered . Your IP can be protected by registering it with the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry, and Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC). For start-ups seeking investors, this should be done even before pitching your idea to any investor. Disclosure of your IP before registration could prejudice or affect your right over the IP if someone registers it before you. Most IP for example trademark and patent operates on the basis of “first to file” principle. Also ensure that your works that are eligible for copyright protection should be fixed in a definite form of expression before passing it to any other person.
Remedies for Breach of IP
The owner of an IP can seek available remedies in the court having jurisdiction where his IP has been infringed. The remedies available include:
- Damages or account of profits. Damages could be awarded to compensate for the loss suffered as a result of the infringement. Alternatively, an account of profit could be ordered to enable the IP owner to recover all the profits made by the infringer from the unauthorised use of the IP.
- This remedy operates to stop the infringer from continuing the unauthorised exploitation of the IP.
- Delivery up for destruction. The court could make an order mandating the infringer to deliver up the infringing products and the devices used in making them for destruction.
Intellectual Property is an important asset, and its value can only be fully realized and enjoyed only when fully protected. Nigeria has proven to be a major global hub for innovations in tech, music, movies, etc. It is very important that you take adequate measures to ensure you do not disclose your IP to anyone before they are fully registered. Start-ups have to be particularly careful with the IP before pitching for investors. In the event that a protected IP is infringed, there are remedies available to the IP to the owner in the form of damages, injunction and destruction of the infringing products.
[ii] Section 1 (2) (b) of the Nigerian Copyright Act LFN 2004
Please note that the contents of this article are for general guidance on the Subject Matter. It is NOT legal advice.
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