NIGERIA TRADEMARKS DEVELOPMENT: THE INAUGURATION OF A NEW TRIBUNAL FOR OPPOSITION MATTERS
The recent facelift of the trade mark opposition tribunal in Nigeria has received significant recognition through the past weeks and is indeed a welcome development. Suffice it to say that with the new development comes more responsibilities and realistic efficiency. In this piece is a brief background of how the trademark opposition operates, the effects of the inauguration of a new tribunal and suggestions on how to keep the tribunal effective.
Trademark Opposition in Nigeria
When a trademark passes the examination and acceptance stages which follow after an application is made to the Registry, it is advertised/published in the Nigerian Trademarks Journal. This advertisement opens a two months long period for opposition from the date of the advertisement. Opposition of trademarks is provided for in section 20 (1) & (2) of the Nigerian Trademarks Act which states that the grounds for opposition must be stated while filing a notice of opposition.
The notice of the opposition is served on the applicant who has a period of one month to respond with a counter statement which is served on the opponent, after which both parties file statutory declarations. No further document is filed and parties at this point wait for a hearing date when they get to present their arguments before a tribunal.
The New Tribunal
On the 19th day of June 2019, the tribunal was reconstituted into four functional units to handle different opposition matters. The essence of this is to make opposition proceedings faster and bring an end to the issue of backlogs which has plagued the tribunal for the longest time.
A new tribunal room was also inaugurated as the former room was a far cry from what can be obtained in proper court room/tribunal settings. The new room is a great development in terms of structure and arrangement, proceedings are now conducted diligently and with more decorum, and there is a better filing/record system. Files and opposition matters are now assigned to different officers with the names of the officers registered on the assigned files. This is to ensure proper accountability and efficiency in the handling of matters at the tribunal.
The Way Forward?
With these new developments, it is the hope of all and sundry that there will be remarkable changes in the dispensation of opposition matters brought to the tribunal. However, there are some suggestions the opposition unit can put into consideration to achieve its aim.
One of the suggestions is for designated personnel to ensure that the whole process involved in the notice of opposition is swiftly attended to and parties are served timeously. As already stated above, oppositions arise from published journals as such where journals are promptly published, there will be no room for backlogs as oppositions arising from one publication can easily be treated, either completely or to a large extent, before a new publication.
It is also important that the opposition unit keeps this same energy at all times as consistency will definitely help it achieve its aim