Intellectual property rights are protected under statute and judicial decisions.

1. The Trademarks Act

The Trademarks Act Chapter T13, LFN 2004 regulates the registration of trademarks in Nigeria.

2. The Patents & Designs Act

Patents and Designs are governed by the provisions of the Patent and Designs Act Chapter P2 LFN 2004. The Act provides that an industrial design must be registered by submission of a registration certificate containing the number of the design, the name and address of the registered owner, the date of the application and date of issue of the certificate, details of any priority claim, if any, a reproduction or representation of the design and an indication of products for which it will be used, and the name and address of the true creator.

3. The Copyright Act

Copyrights in Nigeria are governed by the Copyright Act, Chapter C28 LFN, 2004, (the "Copyright Act"). Generally, the Copyright Act provides that the following works are eligible for copyright in Nigeria: literary, musical, artistic and cinematograph works, sound recording and broadcasts. This list is conclusive and as such, copyright cannot subsist in any other category or works. By virtue of the Copyright Act, copyright protection is automatically conferred where there is proof that sufficient efforts have been applied by the author, in giving the work original character and the work is fixed in a definite form of expression. There is also a voluntary copyright registration scheme where authors may register their works by notification to the Nigeria Copyright Commission.

4. Priority of Registration

Nigeria is a party to the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property 1883, as amended (the "Paris Convention"). The Paris Convention has been incorporated into local law in the case of patents and industrial designs. This means that if X's country of origin/registration is also a party to the Paris Convention, and if X seeks to file an application for a patent or an industrial design, it will enjoy a right of priority for a period of 12 months from the date on which it made an application for the registration of such a patent or design in a Convention Country.

The Paris Convention has not been incorporated into local law in the case of trademarks. Consequently, although as a matter of law no priority ought to be accorded in respect of prior filings in a Convention Country in practice, the Registrar of Trademarks accords priority to such prior filings.

5. Judicial Interpretation of IP Laws

The courts in Nigeria have held that " 'trademark', when registered, will entitle the proprietor to sue or institute an action for any infringement of the trademark" and "registration entitles the proprietor to the exclusive use of the trademark and also the right to sue for passing off the goods of the proprietor".

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.