Intellectual property is the rights that accrues to creative artists like copyright, patent rights, industrial designs, trademark (protection business brands/brand names). These rights recognized by law enables creative artists, inventors and business owners that have grown their business into a popular brand to rip and exploit the benefits that accrues to their works be it a copyrighted work, patent, trademark, industrial designs and others.
In broad terms, intellectual property refers to all rights available in copyright works, inventions, patents, industrial designs and including trade names (brand name which is popularly known as and albeit erroneously as trademark in Nigeria). These works give the owners the prerogatives of protecting how their works are used by the public and through that rip the benefit of their work through several means of Intellectual Property exploitation or royalty from licenses to users of the IP rights.
In this special IP series, our focus is to give our audience a succinct expose on the primary steps an owner of an intellectual property which includes, invention, patents, industrial designs and brand name/tradename (trademark), etc, can take to protect and manage their intellectual property rights. We will however, in another series, illustrate how an owner of copyrighted works can protect, manage and exploits their works.
Basically, protection of intellectual property rights in Nigeria starts with an application for registration of either trademark, patent or industrial design to the Department of Industrial Property Office Registry (known as Trademark Registry) which is under the Federal Ministry of Trade, Investment and Commerce. This application for registration of either trademark, industrial design or patent to the registry is made by accredited agents of the trademark registry on behalf of the intellectual property owner. Accredited agents are made up of law firms and other experts that are registered with the trademark registry for the purpose of transacting the business of registration of all intellectual property rights and other IP management/regulations which the agency is in charge of on behalf of the intellectual property owners.
TRADEMARK (TRADENAME) PANTENT & INDUSTRIAL DESIGN REGISTRATION:
It is important to state here that the timeline for registration of either trademark, industrial design or patent varies and not the same. Whereas, trademark registration may be completed within a space of two to six months, industrial design or patent registration can take a longer time depending on the expertise of the agent to navigate and push the application through the offices particularly patent registration which naturally takes a long period because of its peculiarity. Note also that Nigerian bureaucratic bottleneck is also an impeding factor which an agent must know how to navigate to ensure speedy delivery to the client or IP owner.
Once search on the IP sought to be protected/registered is made and same is available/free for registration, application for registration is therefore submitted (for trademark) which also goes through another rounds of examination by the registry officers to ensure that procedures and requirement for registration is met and as well as free from any existing registered mark, an acceptance slip which is known among practitioners as ‘acceptance letter’ is issued to the owner whereupon he can use same as having been accepted to be protected/registered by the registry.
In the case of the patent and industrial design registration, its process starting from search to drafting of the application for registration requires technical expertise from the agent/practitioner to ensure that proper search is conducted where necessary as failure to ensure proper search could lead to IP infringement and has the ability to run your business down. A good example on this is the blackberry case in the United States of America and a Canadian inventor which shutdown blackberry business.
The accepted mark (for trademark registration), patent and industrial is then published in the quarterly journal of the Registry and which is available to the public. For trademark registration, it is expected that anybody who feels that the accepted works infringes on its existing work can file an opposition against the registration of the accepted work. If, however, that there is no opposition for the registration of the trademark after 60 (Sixty) days of its publication in the journal, the owner of the work can through his/her agent apply for the final registration of the tradename/trademark by the registry and a registration certificate is then issued by the registry to the owner of the tradename/trademark while the widow period for any opposition for the registration of patent/invention is two (2) before the owner can apply for its final registration.
Intellectual property right protection does not start and end with obtaining certification of registration either for trademark, patent or industrial design, it is more than that and therefore requires the guidance of a knowledgeable expert in intellectual property management to advice how to manage your intellectual property rights and how best you can integrate it into your business and rip the benefits which intellectual property adds to business through proper mode of exploitation or royalties from licenses.
You can contact us at Penlit & Greyson, for your specialized consultation on your intellectual property management , registration and exploitation.