A Patent confers a legal recognition or protection on the outcome of an invention in different areas of human existence. Ideas, research and discoveries that result in novel inventions are worthy of protection and recognition. A Patentee upon a successful registration of a Patent enjoys the protection against copying or dubbing of his invention by other people.
A person may register a patent in Nigeria, if he meets the following criteria:
- Novelty: By the provision of the Patents and Designs Act Cap P2 LFN 2004, the invention must be new and not already known or used in any part of the world before the application for a patent is made. It must not have been disclosed or known to the Public prior to the date the application is made. If an Invention has been utilized or earlier disclosed either orally or in writing the requirement of newness will be defeated. The requirement of novelty may however, still be met if the previous use of the Invention is secret or experimental.
- Inventive Step: The invention must not be obvious to a person skilled in the art. In other words, the invention must not be something that anyone with basic knowledge of the field could have come up with. The Inventor must have exercised his ingenuity in a manner that is sufficient to justify the grant of the Patent. It must however, not be excluded by the Act, for instance, an invention whose publication may encourage immoral or offensive behaviour.
- Industrial Applicability: It must be capable of being deployed in an industry. If the Invention constitutes an improvement on a patented invention, it must be significantly different from such patented invention and must not be obvious.
- Description of the Invention: The patent application must include a detailed description of the invention, including any drawings or diagrams that are necessary to explain the invention.
- Claims: The patent application must also include claims that define the scope of the invention and what it covers.
- Power of Attorney: A power of attorney from the agent conducting the registration on behalf of the applicant or his legal representative must be filed with the application.
- Priority Document: If the applicant claims
priority from an earlier application in another country, a
certified copy of the priority document must be submitted not more
than 3 months after filing the application. If the application is
made within 12 months of the earlier application made outside
Nigeria, the application will be treated as if it had been made on
the same day as the earlier application. An applicant seeking such
foreign priority to his application will complete Form, which is a
written declaration showing:
- The date and the number of the earlier application.
- The country where such application was made.
- The name of the person who made it.
- An Address for Service within Nigeria: If the applicant is a foreign owned company, he must provide an address within Nigeria.
- Filing Fee: The required filing fee must be paid at the time of filing the patent application.
PROCEDURE FOR THE REGISTRATION OF PATENTS IN NIGERIA
The primary legislation that governs the registration of patent in Nigeria is the Patents and Designs Act. The Commercial Law Department of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is the body charged with the grant of Trademarks, Patents and Designs in Nigeria.
It is immaterial whether the patent being sought to be registered is a product or a process. The Act states the procedure to be complied with in securing Patent Protection in respect of an invention.
The procedure for registration of a patent in Nigeria involves the following steps:
- Conduct a search: Before filing an application for a patent, it is advisable to conduct a search to determine if the invention is new and non-obvious. The search can be conducted at the Nigerian Patent and Trademark Registry or with the assistance of a patent agent.
- Prepare the application: These documents must
- A petition or request for a patent with the applicant's full name and address (form 1A). The applicant must have an address within Nigeria.
- A signed power of attorney authorization of agent if the application is made by an agent (form 2)
- A specification including a claim or claims in duplicate (form 3)
- Plans and drawings if any in duplicate.
- A declaration by the true inventor where applicable.
Where also, an applicant for a patent seeks to avail himself of a foreign priority in respect of an earlier application made in a country outside Nigeria. The Nigerian application is to be accompanied by certain information concerning the earlier foreign application such as date, number, country of application and name of the earlier applicant. The Registrar shall also be furnished with a certified copy of the earlier application within three months from the date of the application in Nigeria. It should also be noted that foreign priority is only accorded to applications made in 'convention' countries, i.e. countries so declared by the Minister or by an order published in the Federal Gazette.
- File the application: The application can be filed electronically or in hard copy at the Nigerian Patent and Trademark Registry. The application must be accompanied by the filing fee which only covers one Patent.
- Examination: Once the application is filed, it is examined to ensure that it meets the requirements for patentability by the Registrar and to ascertain that the application has met the formal compliance.
- Grant of Patent: If no opposition is filed within two months of publication, the patent is granted and the applicant is issued a certificate of registration.
The entire patent registration process typically takes between two to four months. A Patent expires after 20 years from the date of filing of the relevant application after which the general public may use if freely. A duly registered patent guarantees the Patentee the right to preclude any other person from dubbing his product or reproducing it for economic benefits. It is advisable to seek the assistance of a patent agent or attorney to ensure that the application meets all the legal requirements and to guide you through the process.
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.