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IP in Nigeria: Developments from the last year

IP Filing Statistics from the Nigerian Registry for the full year of 2016

Patent applications: 908

Trade mark applications: 19,362

60% of trade marks and 55% of patent applications were filed using the IPAS (manual filing system) while 40% and 45% were filed online via the e-Filing system. A significant increase from 2015, where only 17% and 34% (respectively) were filed via IPAS. Demand for patent protection is increasing - Shell, Chevron, Glaxo, Unilever, Novartis and Pfizer are leading patent filers in Nigeria.

Trademark, Patent and Design Registry

A leadership tussle at the Registry in the middle of the year caused much disruption. Mr. Williams Amuga had been appointed as the acting Registrar in 2015. However, in June this year, Mrs. Adebola Adegoke from the Federal Ministry of Justice was appointed as the substantive Registrar. This was met with concern from the trade union in the Ministry of Trade and Investment who mobilized its members and resisted the appointment. Eventually, Amuga was re-appointed and is still acting.

Only one trade mark journal was published in 2016, which caused a severe backlog of pending applications.

Nigeria Copyright Commission ('NCC') Enforcement Actions

The NCC was very active in 2016. It conducted various raids in different parts of the country. During the raids, pirated books and materials worth several millions of US dollars were confiscated.

The NCC also shut down various pirates transmitting illegal signals of satellite channels, mainly in the southern parts of the country. This resulted in 12 new cases by the NCC.

Mobile communication giant in Nigeria, MTN, was involved in many high profile copyright cases. In one case, MTN paid an undisclosed amount as compensation to a Nigerian artist for unauthorized use of his sound recording as a ring back tune. MTN reached a settlement after the NCC instituted a criminal action against the company. Regardless of the settlement the commission has continued to pursue criminal prosecution against the company.

Notable IP Cases in Nigeria - Pending Cases

  1. Mi-fone International DMCC v. Xiaomi Inc. – trade mark infringement.

  2. Liberty Williams v. MTN Nigeria Communications Limited – copyright infringement.

  3. Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) v. MTN - copyright infringement on musical works.

  4. Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria LTD/GTE (MCSN) v. Nigerian Copyright Commission.

  5. Temitope Akinyemi v. The Sun Publishing Limited - copyright infringement.

  6. Copyright Society of Nigeria v. Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria - account for royalties.

  7. Rolling Innovations and Investment Limited & Anor. v. Ecobank Nigeria Limited-breach of confidentiality.

IP Bills in Parliament: The Copyright Bill and IPCOM

  • Copyright Bill - The Bill has been withdrawn for further consultation.

  • IPCOM Bill - Passed its second reading in Parliament on 19 January 2017. This is a major development and takes us one step further to the long awaited Bill becoming law in Nigeria.

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