Every man/woman has been given the capacity to be intellectual and productive for the enhancement of the Human Race. Over the centuries, there have been so many creations and inventions that have eased and sustained the existence of Human Race. These creations and inventions are referred to as the intellectual properties of the creators and inventors. This has informed what we have come to know today as Intellectual Property Rights and Laws.
Intellectual Property is defined as a category of property that includes the intangible creations and inventions of human intellect. It is intangible because it cannot be divided and it can be duplicated and consumed by unlimited number of people without it being depleted. Intellectual Property Rights refers to the exclusive right of an Individual, a Corporate body or an Institution to use such intangible creations or inventions without any claim from a third party. Intellectual Property Laws are the set of rules that guide and govern the ownership and use of these intangible creations and inventions.
In Nigeria, examples of Intellectual Property include; music, literary and artistic works, brand name, symbols/logos, catch phrases, images, technology inventions, etc.
The primary laws that govern Intellectual Property in Nigeria are;
i. NIGERIAN COPYRIGHT ACT Cap 28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004;
ii. TRADEMARKS ACT CAP T13 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004;
iii. PATENT AND DESIGN ACT CAP P2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
I shall discuss briefly on how these laws confer exclusive rights on the owners, authors, creators, inventors of various intellectual properties.
1. NIGERIAN COPYRIGHT ACT Cap 28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004-:
A Copyright is a legal right that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to determine whether, and under what conditions, this original work may be used by others.
The Act classifies Copyright to include literary works, musical works, artistic works, cinematograph films, sound recordings and broadcast. Under this Act, for any work to be considered eligible for copyright, it must pass two tests;
i. Sufficient effort must have been expended by the owner to give such work an original character. In other words, for any work to be eligible for copyright, the owner must be able to show that he/she has invested efforts such that it makes the work first of its kind;
ii. Such work must have been fixed in a definite medium of expression which can be translated, reproduced or otherwise communicated. In other words, such work must be in a language already known and from which it can be subsequently translated, reproduced by others or communicated to others either directly or with the aid if a machine.
Ordinarily, an individual who passes these two tests is deemed to be the primary and exclusive owner, author or creator of any work eligible for copyright. In other words, such work shall belong in the first instance to the owner, author or creator of the work unless he/she has stipulated otherwise in writing either in a contract of employment, contract of assignment, licensing contract or has been commissioned to make such work.
The Copyright Act provides for time limitation in exercising rights over works eligible for copyright with no provision for renewal;
a. For literary, musical or artistic works other than photographs, copyright in such works expire 70 years after the end of the year in which the owner, creator or author dies.
b. For cinematograph films and photographs, copyright expires 50 years after the end of the year in which the recording or photograph was made, while in the case of broadcasts, copyright expires 50 years after the end of the year in which the broadcast first took place.
2. TRADEMARKS ACT CAP T13 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004-: A Trade Mark is a mark or symbol used to identify or set a product or service apart from other similar brands. A Trade Mark is usually deemed registerable when it is distinctive and synonymous to a particular brand. Trade Mark could be obtained for; a logo, a catch phrase, brand names, etc. An artist, TV presenter, News channel, can trademark their names to prevent anyone from using it without lawful permission.
Also, trademarks verify the authenticity of a brand which can be a person, work or company. There can be said to be an infringement where a mark identical to or resembling a registered Trade Mark is used by another party other than the registered owner of a Trade Mark.
Registration of Trade Mark is for seven years but the Act provides for subsequent renewal of 14 years at a time.
3. PATENT AND DESIGN ACT CAP P2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004-: A patent is granted to protect an invention that is new or essentially better in some ways than was made before. This Act is majorly applicable to technicians, technologists, scientists, engineers, etc.
Before a Patent can be granted, the following criteria must be met;
a. It must be an invention. That is, a step forward in an art or field of science;
b. It must be new or may be an improvement upon an already patented invention and must be a result of inventive activity;
c. It must be capable of industrial application.
Unlike Copyright where exclusive right is vested primarily in the owner, author or creator of a work, the exclusive right to a Patent is vested in the Statutory Inventor and not necessarily the true Inventor. In other words, whether or not a person is the true inventor, a right to a patent is vested primarily in the first person to file an application for the grant of Patent.
There is no gain saying that registering one’s creative work is very essential in order to preserve one’s rights and interests and ultimately, profit from efforts invested in putting one’s intellect to good use.
The limitations of Nigeria’s Intellectual Property Laws cannot be over-emphasised as they have proven over time to be anachronistic and not dynamic enough to effectively govern Intellectual Property Rights and protection in Nigeria today. For example, the growth of the entertainment industry has over the years been impeded by the nefarious acts of pirates and the existing laws are not as effective in tackling this menace.
Awareness campaigns should be held frequently to promote and enlighten the public on the importance of intellectual property. Stakeholders should advocate for effective enforcement procedures and protection. Punishments for intellectual property right infringements should be reviewed so as to deter further exploitations of intellectual property owners by unscrupulous elements. Government should also wake up to its responsibilities and align our Intellectual Property Laws with International best practices. These will no doubt encourage those blessed with creative intellect to put it into good use for the advancement of the Nigerian economy.