AN INTRODUCTION TO INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW IN NIGERIA: WHAT EVERY CREATIVE SHOULD KNOW!

You are an exceptional creative! You have worked tirelessly to create a unique and beautiful work of art. You put it out there for the world to see and after a while, you discover that some persons have stolen and copied your work without giving credit to you. You are so frustrated but then, as usual, you excuse it away —”it’s one of those things”. This is becoming a common thing but if you do not take a solid step to protect your work then history would keep repeating itself.


Fortunately, the law has made provisions for the protection of the fruits of your intellect copyright protection, trademark protection, patent, and industrial design protection. This is the crux of intellectual property (IP). But what is IP? Where does my work fit in this area of law? How does the law protect my work? If these are the questions going through your mind, then it is a good thing you are in this space! This is because, over the next few weeks, our bone of contention would be in this area of law.


However, in this article, we would be discussing what intellectual property is, its branches and how it affects you as a creative.

Meaning of Intellectual Property

As defined by David Bainbridge, intellectual property is an “area of law which concerns legal rights associated with creative effort or commercial reputation and goodwill”. In simple terms, IP is a branch of law that protects the creation of the human mind or intellect which includes literary, artistic, and scientific works and other creative works. The law of IP deters others from copying or taking unfair advantage of the brain work or reputation of another and provides remedies to injured persons where the need arises. Hence, if you have just invented something spectacular, this is the area of law that protects your inventions from imitators and unrepentant clones.

Nature of Rights of an IP owner
  1. Moral Rights
    Moral rights relate to the emotional/personal connection between an author and his creation. This is a right that confers on the author paternity of the intellectual creation and preserves the personal and reputational value of a work, as opposed to its financial value.
  2. Economic Rights
    This relates to the commercial value of the work, which grants the author a monopoly to exclusively exploit his creation for a certain period. This encourages industrial and commercial connections as well as creativity. Under this monopoly, creatives can prevent third parties from using, reproducing, and selling the creation without authorization. If rights are infringed, the author can take legal action against the unlawful use of his literary, artistic, or industrial creations.
Branches of Intellectual Property in Nigeria
  1. Copyright
    Copyright is a branch of IP that covers the rights of creatives in relation to the prevention of unauthorized copying, distribution, or reproduction of the work. It is an exclusive legal right bestowed on an author of a literary, artistic, scientific, or any other creative work for a fixed number of years. This branch of IP is governed by the Copyright Act. The Copyright Act provides for the different types of work that can be protected by copyright. By virtue of S. 1(1) Copyright Act, these include literary works, musical works, artistic works, cinematograph films, sound recordings, and broadcasts.
    The sole purpose of copyright is to protect the author’s intellectual property and to prohibit it from being reproduced and sold by unauthorized individuals.
  2. Trademark
    Trademark is a unique symbol, word, words, combination of colors or even name that identifies the owner of goods and services. Using another person’s trademark can confuse the public and so the purpose of this branch of IP is to prevent such confusion in the market. Hence, a registered trademark would be infringed if another person uses it in such a manner as to mislead others. This area of IP is governed by the Trademarks Act.
  3. Patent and Industrial Design
    A patent is an exclusive right granted by the law to protect a person’s invention that is new or that improves an existing invention. The law prevents another from developing the patented creation without the authorization of the patentee. Hence, others are deterred from selling, distributing, or manufacturing the patented subject matter. On the other hand, the industrial design includes the decorative or aesthetic part of a beneficial object which may include its form, design, color, etc., and which must be visually appealing. This branch of IP is governed by the Patent and Designs Act
Relationship between the Branches of IP

All the branches of IP are independent however there are situations where they may overlap. For instance, a product may fall under copyright and patent. Let’s use a washing machine as an example.

  • A trademark protects the brand name and logo of the washing machine such as Samsung, Haier, etc.
  • The parts and processes that wash the clothes can be protected by Patent.
  • The form, design, pattern, and style of the washing machine can be protected by Industrial Design.
  • The washing machine’s manual for operation, an original written material can be protected by Copyright.

As a creative or a brand, you have put so much into the creation of original content, products, and designs, hence, it is important to protect your intellectual property if your brand is to grow and thrive. The best way to do this is to speak with a lawyer vast in this area of law. This is because IP lawyers can help ensure your work is not infringed upon in any way whatsoever. Also, if someone desires to use your work, IP lawyers would ensure that sufficient royalties are promptly paid to you so you can earn while you sleep.
To speak with a lawyer, click here

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