In the world of business there is one thing, whether it is a word, sign, symbol or any other distinctive mark that truly makes your product unique. It is what separates you from others and what consumers of your product can identify you by, that is your trademark.
As a consumer or a businessman in the product market, one thing that we easily understand is that products can be easily judged sometimes simply by the name or logo they carry. The reality is that consumers are more likely to trust the products of a trademark that they are familiar with than that of an unknown.
So the question is; What do you have to do as someone who has established themselves in the product market or someone working to establish themselves in this market to protect that name, word, symbol, logo or that distinctive mark that consumers know you by? The simple answer is that you must secure your trademark.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises.
Registration of Trademark
The most crucial step in protecting your trademark is the registration of the mark. In Nigeria, trademarks applications are made to the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry, the body responsible for the registration of trademarks. For a trademark to be registrable, the mark must contain one of the following:
- the name of a company, individual, or firm represented in a special or particular manner;
- the signature of the applicant for registration or some predecessor in his business;
- an invented word or invented words;
- a word or words having no direct reference to the character or quality of the goods, and not being according to its ordinary signification a geographical name or surname;
- any other distinctive mark
It should be clearly started that in Nigeria, only accredited persons or companies can register trademarks.
Trademark Infringement and Infringement Actions
Securing your trademark does not automatically end at registration, as registration of your trademark does not necessarily stop infringement. Yes, it will deter some persons from infringing upon your mark but the truth is that there will still be those persons that would attempt to make profit from your trademarks established goodwill.
For instance, in our Nigerian product market trademark infringement is a rampant concern. We see products on a daily trying to camouflage as another, we have the popular “Aba boys” throwing out their own version of popular brands, removing a “c” from Gucci or adding an extra “i” to Nike and many more surprisingly creative examples of infringements. These infringing products are usually so similar to the original that they confuse consumers.
However, the reality is that these infringers most times do not care about the quality and standard that the original brand portrays and consumers who purchase these low quality goods end up being wary about products from the brand.
What then can you do after registration to maintain your product image and standard in such a market environment? You can institute an infringement action. This where is where the difference between a registered trademark and an unregistered trademark truly reveals itself. In Nigeria, where your mark is not registered and there is an infringement you can only bring an action in tort for passing off, however once your trademark is duly registered you can bring an action for infringement of your mark and the due enforcement of your trademark rights.
While this write up gives a brief idea into securing your trademark in Nigeria, it in no way replaces the need for expert legal advice in this area. Trademark in Nigeria is a intricate field that cannot be easily summarized. There are the areas of registration and classes of goods under which a mark can be registered, searches, registrable and non registrable marks, examination, trademark opposition, renewals, assignment, abandonment and enforcement of the intellectual property right.
As such always seek the advice of legal experts for registration and enforcement of trademark rights in Nigeria.
BY EFEMENA IGHORIMOTO; LINKEDIN.COM/IN/EFEMENA-IGHORIMOTO; EFEMENA 96@GMAIL.COM.