Over the years, trademarks have gained prominence around the world as one of the most important intangible assets of any business. Trademarks play a crucial role in branding as they provide businesses and their products with a unique identity. Today's article will discuss the requirements and procedure for registration of trademarks in Nigeria.
What is a Trademark?
A Trademark may be defined as a mark or combination of marks used to individualize the goods or services offered by a business and distinguish them from those offered by other businesses1. Trademarks are important in the world of business as they are indicators of the origin and quality of goods and services. They also enable businesses to distinguish their products from those of competitors in the market.
Registration of a trademark gives the owner, the rights to use, sell and/or license the trademark to the exclusion of all others. Trademarks may take the form of a name, signature, logo, word, letter, device, numeral or a combination of these.
Registrable Trademarks in Nigeria
An important criterion for the registration of a trademark in Nigeria is that such trademark must be distinctive. Trademarks which are deceptive, scandalous or identical to an already registered trademark in respect of the same goods or service are not eligible for registration in Nigeria.
It is pertinent to note that trademark registration in Nigeria is done in accordance with the Nice Classification established by the Nice Agreement of 1957, which provides for the classes of goods and services under which business owners may apply for the registration of their trade mark. Business owners are required to register their trade mark under the class which the business description of the trade mark falls. The implication of this is that the trade mark will only be protected under the class in which the trademark is registered by the business owner.
Procedure for the registration of a trademark in Nigeria
Registration of trademarks in Nigeria is done at the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry, of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment ("Registry"). An applicant is required to appoint an accredited agent to conduct the registration on his behalf through a power of attorney in the prescribed form. The procedure for registering the trademark is summarized below:
- Conduct an availability search: The accredited agent is required to conduct an availability search at the Registry, to determine whether the mark is available under the relevant class. Where the trademark is not in conflict with any existing trademark, under the relevant class, the accredited agent can proceed to register the mark;
- Application-Acknowledgement: Upon confirmation of the availability of the trademark, the accredited agent will be required to fill the relevant statutory application form detailing the personal information of the owner of the mark as well as the name and/ or specimen of the logo or mark which the applicant intends to register. Upon submission of the application form and payment of the required fees, the Registry will issue an Acknowledgement Form to the accredited agent confirming receipt of the application;
- Acceptance: Upon acknowledgement of the application, the trademark will be examined by the Registry to confirm its distinctiveness and to ensure that it is not in conflict with any previously registered trademark. An Acceptance Form will be issued where the trade mark is deemed satisfactory by the Registry;
- Publication of the Trademark: After the Acceptance Form has been issued by the Registry, the trademark application will be published in the Trademarks Journal. The publication is a public notification to interested parties who may have any reservations on the registration of the trademark. Any person who may have an objection to the registration of the trademark is required to file same with the Registry within 2 months of the publication; and
- Issue of a Certificate of Registration: Where no objection is filed against the registration of the trademark or where such objection is withdrawn or overruled, the applicant will be issued a Certificate of Registration by the Registry.
It is important to note that a trademark registration is valid for a period of 7 years at the first instance and subsequently renewable every 14 years after.
Presently, many businesses suffer from counterfeiting, imitation and other forms of infringement. While the registration of trademarks alone is not sufficient to prevent these, businesses are encouraged to register their trademarks, as the registration of the mark confers registered holders with the right to enforce it against others.
1. Introduction to Trademark Law & Practice, authored by World Intellectual Property Organization.
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.