Nigeria: Need To Know Series — Intellectual Property Rights

Last Updated: 25 April 2013
Article by Perchstone & Graeys

Intellectual property rights protect human endeavours and creativity, the creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.

1. What idea, invention, right, design etc can be protected?

Intellectual property rights, like any other property right, allow the creators, or owners of the intellectual property to benefit exclusively from their own work or investment in a creation. These rights are broadly categorized as:

a. Industrial Property: patents, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications.

b. Copyright: literary works (such as novels, poems and plays), films, music, artistic works (e.g., drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures) and architectural design.

The law of patents protects inventions, i.e. products and processes that contribute in some practical and functional way to existing knowledge. The law of industrial designs protects shapes, patters, ornaments or other features, which enhance the outward or aesthetic appearance of a product. Trademarks consist of symbols, names, labels drawings, numerals and other marks, which serve the purpose of identifying a product and distinguishing it from other products in the market place. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and broadcasters in their radio and television programs.

For the purpose of legal referrals, the Copyright act Cap C28 LFN 2004, Patent and Designs Act Cap P2 LFN 2004 and the Trade marks Act Cap T 13 LFN 2004 will be relied on.

Section 1 (1) of the Copyright Act lists literary works, musical works, artistic works, cinematography works, sound recording and broadcasts as being eligible for copyright. Section 1 of the Patent & Designs Act lists the following inventions as being patentable:

a. if it is new, results from inventive activity and is capable of industrial application;

b. if it constitutes an improvement upon a patented invention and also is new, results from inventive activity and is capable of industrial application;

c. an invention is new if it does not form part of the state of the art;

d. an invention is capable of industrial application if it can be manufactured or used in any kind of industry, including agriculture.

The Copyright Act states that literary works (novels, plays, choreographic works, computer programmes, text-books letters), musical work, artistic works (paintings, drawings, etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, engraving and prints, maps, plans and diagrams), cinematograph film, sound recordings and broadcast will be eligible for automatic copyright protection in Nigeria.

The Patent and Designs Act protects inventions. An invention is patentable in Nigeria if it is new, results from inventive activity and is capable of industrial application; or it constitutes an improvement upon a patented invention and is also new, results from inventive activity and is capable of industrial application.

2. How?

An intellectual property can be protected by registration with appropriate body/registry on application at a prescribed fee. A copyright's protection is however automatic, although a registration of notification with the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) is advised. The grant of registration by the Registrar is at his discretion, on conformity with the legislative requirements by the applicant.

The right to a patent in respect of an invention is vested in the statutory inventor; the person who, whether or not he is the true inventor, is the first to file, or validly to claim a foreign priority for, a patent application in respect of the invention, to be registered with the Patent Registry.

In registering a trademark, the proprietor would need to would appoint a trademark agent (e.g. a legal practitioner). The agent is to be responsible for the application and follow through of the registration process with the Trade Marks Registry on behalf of the proprietor.

3. Steps involved

Registration of a copyright in Nigeria is automatic, upon creation of the intellectual property in that regard. However, the NCC has designed a copyright notification process to enable creators of these works or who have acquired rights in these works to give notice of their copyright to the NCC or, where applicable, notice of any transfer of right thereof. This is in a bid to guarantee the owners rights; protection is however available to both published and unpublished works automatically on the creation of the work, provided the work is original and fixed in a tangible medium from which it can be perceived or otherwise communicated.

The applicant/proprietor of a trademark will be required to prepare a letter of authority or power attorney authorizing an agent (e.g. a legal practitioner) to apply for and follow up application for registration of trade marks at the Trade Mark Registry. The registration application is then made by submitting the requisite forms with representations of the marks to the registry, alongside the letter of authority or power of attorney. The application is scrutinised by the relevant body and the requisite acknowledgement and acceptance notices are issues as applicable. The trademark is then published in the trademark journal to enable the public challenge its registration. An absence of an opposition in this regard will lead to the issuance of the trademark certificate confirming registration

However, where there is an opposition, such an opposition must be made in the appropriate form, signed by the opponent and filed within two months of the advertisement. The Notice of Opposition must disclose the required information and include the grounds of opposition. The Applicant/proprietor of the mark is then required to file a counter statement in response to the opposition within a month of receiving notice of opposition.

Following the conduct of a search to confirm the patentability of the intellectual property, a patent application made for convention and non-convention, by submitting the requisite forms and a power of attorney designating the patent agent (e.g. the legal practitioner) to proceed with the application. A complete specification and claim together with plans and drawing if any are required, including a declaration signed by the true inventor is to be included. Where foreign priority is claimed, information concerning the patent, number, date country of earlier application and name of patentee is also included. Upon examination and grant of patent, a certificate is issued.

4. Right (s) conferred by registration/protection

The general principle is that an inventor should be able to reap all the rights that come with the creativity of original intellectual property. Thus, the proprietor of the trademark is entitled to institute proceeding to prevent, or to recover damages for, the infringement of the trade mark. A patentee has the right to preclude any other person from the act of making, importing, selling or using the product, or stocking it for the purpose of sale or use (where granted in respect of a product) and the act of applying the process or doing, in respect of a product obtained directly by means of the process (where granted in respect of a process). The scope of the protection is usually determined by the terms of the claims and the description, if any be used to interpret the claims.

A registered copyright is considered infringed a person (s):

a. imports into Nigeria, otherwise than for his private or domestic use,

b. exhibits in public any article in respect of which copyright is infringed;

c. distributes by way of trade, offer for sale, hire or otherwise or for any purpose prejudicial to the owner of the copyright

d. makes or has in his possession, plates, master tapes, machines, equipment or contrivances used for the purpose of making infringed copies of the work;

e. permits a place of public entertainment or of business to be used for a performance in the public of the work, where the performance constitutes an infringed of the copyright in the work, unless the person permitting the place to be used is not aware, and had no reasonable ground for suspecting that the performance would be an infringement of the copyright;

f. performs or causes to be performed for the purposes of trade or business or as supporting facility to a trade or business or as supporting facility to a trade or business, any work in which copyright subsists.

5. Duration of protection offered

Trademarks are registered for an initial period of seven years from the date of the application for registration, renewable for subsequent periods of fourteen years in perpetuity. A renewal may be applied for within three months before the expiration of the seven years.

A patent is granted for a period of twenty years from the date of filing the application. During the life of the patent, the patentee must pay a prescribed annual fee in order to maintain the patent. Failure to pay this fee within six months of the anniversary date will cause the patent to lapse. The expiration or lapse of a patent shall be registered and notified. A lapsed patent cannot be restored.

Copyrights expire as follows:

a. Literary, musical or artistic works other than photographs: seventy years after the end of the year in which the author dies; in the case of government or a body corporate, seventy years after the end of the year in which the work was first published.

b. Cinematograph films and photographs: fifty years after the end of the year in which the work was first published.

c. Sound recordings: fifty years after the end of the year in which the recording was first made.

d. Broadcasts: fifty years after the end of the year in which the broadcasting first took place.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions