The importance of Trademarks in Nigeria
In 2001 the world started talking about the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – as potential powerhouses of the world economy. Economist Jim O’Neill was the man who identified the acronym and it was this same man who has now identified what is being called the MINT countries – Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey – as emerging economic giants. This article shall focus on the attention surrounding Nigeria as of late and how important Intellectual Property can be within this nation.
Nigeria is one the most developed countries in Africa. Although Nigeria is notoriously rife with corruption, Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi argued that corruption rarely prevents economic development – and that growth of the economy, accompanied by improvements in education, will lead to better governance and greater transparency.
An amazing statistic which really does underline the sheer growth potential of Nigeria is the fact that 170 million people in Nigeria share about the same amount of power that is used by 1.7 million people in the UK. Almost every business has to generate its own power. The costs are enormous. Despite this, and to the dismay of Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, Nigeria has continued to grow at a rate of 7% with no power.
Jim O’Neill is of the opinion that Nigeria could grow at a rate of 10-12% by rectifying this problem alone, and that would double the size of the economy in roughly six years.
For any growing economy and for any country where the education system is continuously improving, intellectual property can play a vital role. There is such large scope for innovation in a country which is developing at such a rapid rate and there is no doubt that entrepreneurs will be interested in protecting their brands and ideas. For this reason it is important to analyse the trademark system which is currently deployed in this country.
The legislation which governs trademark law within Nigeria is Trade Mark Act 1965. It is worth noting that Nigeria is still very much reliant upon English laws and the creation of the current Trade Mark Act 1965 was fashioned after the English Trade Mark Act 1938 which has of course now been replaced by the Trade Mark Act 1994. As Nigeria advances industrially, it is thought that there is a need to update their laws to address the present lacuna in their legislation. An example is the need to incorporate the registrability of smell, sound and geographical indication.
In Nigeria it is possible to register any distinctive word, letter, numeral, drawing, picture, shape, colours, logotypes, labels or combinations used to distinguish goods or services may be considered a trade mark. In Nigeria, advertising slogans are also considered trade marks and may be registered as such at The Registry of Trade Marks, Patents and Designs.
It is imperative Nigeria really focus on the development of their Intellectual Property laws as it has the potential to attract Foreign Direct Investment and provide the necessary conditions for transfer of technology. Trademarks are an important component of the intellectual property system as it has a strong influence on private investment and marketing decisions.
There are obvious challenges faced in Nigeria surrounding intellectual property and these mainly stem from the lack of awareness and the reluctance to update current laws. By addressing these issues and really taking advantage of the opportunities which IP and Trade Marks in particular have to offer, the ability to achieve the projected height of growth will be much more attainable.
Harry Jeffries (Law Student)