The New Online Trademark Filing Platform in Nigeria; More Questions Than Answers.
The Commercial Law Department (otherwise known as the Trademark, Patent and Design Registries) of the Federal Ministry of Trade, Commerce and Investment, Nigeria commenced the upgrade of the online filing platform for trademarks, patents and design applications in August, 2020. This was a calculated effort to enhance the already functional online/e filing platform, a system which was adopted in 2012.
The upgrade was intended to be a quick transition from the previous platform to a more functional and user-friendly platform. However, the transition did not go as planned by the Registry as the process lasted for several weeks, causing delays in filing applications. Thereby, creating so much uncertainty on deadlines of various applications.
Upon completion in September 2020, the transition has so far raised more issues and concerns than solutions for Applicants.
Firstly, the Examiners of the Registry do not have access to the portal to enable them examine applications. So far, all applications filed via the new platform remain unexamined as the officials of the unit are yet to fully grasp the intricacies of the platform. Regardless, several applications are being filed daily and this has caused backlog of applications in an already congested Registry in Nigeria.
Secondly, payments for filing applications are now more difficult to trace. Complaints abound daily in this regard, the platform on occasions shuts out Applicants at the point of making payments which is the final step of filing fresh applications. In such circumstances, Applicants’ accounts are debited and will be unable to obtain filing receipts.
These are among the several questions that have remained unanswered by the Registry since the upgrade was started in August 2020. In 2012, the filing of Trademarks applications online was introduced and adopted with a view of bringing about a reduction, ultimately end use of paper filings, backlog of trademark applications, bridge the time of trademark applications amongst other related matters. However, with the recent development at the Registry, backlogs and loss of applications have now become inevitable.
However, the Registry has assured the Applicants that these issues will be resolved soon, but the situation remains bleak with each passing day. Officials of the Registry are currently being trained on the use of the new platform which is a step in the right direction. However, various issues concerning applications that have been filed since August have remained unattended, leaving stakeholders in limbo.
The intent of the said upgrade was to further enhance productivity and speed for trademark applications Nigeria. However, the result so far is a grim reminder of ‘dark ages’ of Pre-online filing period. A period blighted with loss of applications, devoid of accountability and blessed with backlogs. It is therefore imperative that the Registry take steps and do so as matter of urgency to salvage and nip this situation in the bud.