Innovations and inventions play a crucial role in the growth of any society. It helps in stabilizing the economy of a country and boosts its standing amongst other nations. Due to its importance there is an obvious need to protect the author or original owner to a work that falls under intellectual property. While it is crystal clear that inventions and innovations are to be protected, It goes without saying that Nigeria has one of the worst unemployment rates in the world. This however, is not the only reason though it may be a factor, that leads to small medium businesses and entrepreneurship not just amongst the youths but also those seeking ways to earn income. As such, there are bound to be number of cases whereby the content of a work or the process used to achieve creativity is in dispute. Either for who the real owner is or who is legally allowed to sell or copy the works. It may also be that two different businesses with the distinguishing marks may confuse the public due to their similarities. It begs the question, how then can one protect their intellectual rights? We will begin by defining Intellectual Property.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is a term used to refer to work or invention that is the result of creativity. It can also be said to be a creation of intellect for which a monopoly is assigned to designated owners by law.
Intellectual property is protected by three legislations namely Copyright Act LFN 2004, Trademark Act LFN 1990 and Patents and Designs Act 1990. These laws don’t just act as protection against infringement but also provided guidance as to how to utilize the intellectual property. Examples of IP are provided for in Section 1 of the Copyright act LFN 2004 and Section 1 of the Patent and Designs Act 1990
In the dictum of Belgore J. in Oladipo Yemitan v. Daily Times Nigeria Ltd, He aptly stated
“The right of a man to that which he had originally made is an incorporeal right and must be protected”Belgore J. in Oladipo Yemimtan v. Daily Times Nigeria Ltd.
Accordingly, Black’s law dictionary defines copyright as;
an intangible, incorporeal right granted by statute to the author or originator of certain productions whereby he is invested, for a specified period, with the sole and exclusive privilege of multiplying copies at the same and publishing and selling them.
Types of Intellectual Property Rights
- Trade Secrets
Section 1 of the Copyright Act listed the works which are protected under the Copyright Act as follows;
e) sound recordings and
Characteristics of Copyright
- It lasts only for a while. Seventy years after the author dies for musical works and fifty years for cinematographic works
- It restricts unauthorized use of any sorts
- It grants multiple rights to the owner
Benefits of Copyright
It gives brands and identities protection from infringement.
- It gives the ability to sell or lease out trademarks.
- It allows for concurrent use of trademarks.
- Copyright protection is automatic
Section 1 of the Patent and Designs Act provides that subject to this section, an invention is patentable-
(a) if it is new, results from inventive activity and is capable of industrial application; or
(b) if it constitutes an improvement upon a patented invention and also is new, results from inventive activity and is capable of industrial application.
According to Black’s law dictionary, Patent is a grant of right to exclude others from making, using or selling one’s invention and includes the right to license for others to make, use or sell it.
Patents protect new invention such as new processes, chemicals and machines. This simply entails that others would be prevented from getting such right for a set period of time e.g twenty years. To register a patent, an owner would have to fulfill the requirements laid out in Section 4 of the Patent and Design Act. One of which is that the owner must give a description of the relevant invention with any appropriate drawings or plans.
The procedure for registration of patents is inherently different from that which governs trademarks registration.
According to Black’s dictionary law;
Trademarks are distinctive marks of authenticity, through which the products of particular manufacturers or the vendible commodities of particulars merchants may be distinguished from those of others. It is simply a recognizable name or design which is legally registered and used to identify and distinguish a product or entity from others.
Trademarks have 45 different classes in accordance with the Nice international agreement though a trademark can be registered in two classes when the applicant is seeking protection from both classes. The protection usually lasts for seven years after which an application for renewal shall be made (Section 14 of Copyright act).
Characteristics of trademarks are Logo, pictures and words.
Registration of Trademarks
Trademarks can be registered by following three stages namely; search and application, acceptance, Publication and certification.
The body responsible for the registration is usually Trademarks Patent and Design registry, commercial law department of the federal ministry of industry, trade and investment in Nigeria.
While it is right to applaud the various legislations working together to protect intellectual property (Nigeria is signatory to various international conventions a prime example being the Berne Convention) so as to encourage innovative and inventive works, it is worth the while to point out that they may not have the desired effects due to the technological advancements made from the period of their enactments till now. It won’t be farfetched to say that the laws are in need of amendments in other to keep up with the ever evolving developments. Also the issue of piracy has proven to be a stubborn one and remains a thorn in the flesh in the sense that it hampers the procedures and processes as provided in the various laws.