UN Ambassador, Mr Osita Anaedu has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to review Nigeria’s Intellectual Property (IP) laws which are obsolete and are stifling the development of academic assets in Nigeria.
Anaedu made the call during a National Stakeholders meeting organised by IP First Group, with the support of the law firm of Banwo and Ighodalo in Lagos.
He observed that Nigerian politicians don’t seem to understand what intellectual property is.
According to him, intellectual property are the creations of the mind or the intellect, such as technological inventions, designs, artistic works, symbols, names and images used in business.
Mr Femi Agaba, Vice President, Intellectual Property Lawyers Association Nigeria (IPLAN) who spoke at the event said there was need for politicians to understand how intellectual property affects agriculture, especially now that the country was talking about diversifying its economy from its dependence on oil.
“Intellectual property applies to agriculture because even the production of new varieties of seedlings, the branding of rice (trademarks), the creation of new farm implements and the development of new formulas for the blending of fertilisers are all intellectual property, which need to be protected.
“And a robust intellectual property system is needed to foster an environment in which such innovations and creativity can flourish,” he said.
Agaba further called for the urgent development of an IP Policy for Nigeria, which would “chart a course towards harnessing and deriving maximum benefit from Intellectual property assets that may be available in and around our country”.
He declared that there was need for a policy guide to be able to determine how Nigeria as a country would administer IP.
He also noted that with a robust IP policy in place, all the agencies of government administering the various forms of IP would take direction from that policy, which would ensure robust IP system for 21st century Nigeria.
The IPLAN VP therefore called on President Buhari to set up an intellectual property council or at least appoint a special assistant on intellectual property to anchor the IP policy of Nigeria, just as former U.S. President Barack Obama did during his time in office.
Also speaking at the event, the Registrar of Trademarks Registry of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Shafiu Adamu Yauri noted that “IP First is an organisation set up to drive the IP narrative forward” and as one of its pioneering members, he promised to support the efforts of the organisation in helping to establish a befitting IP system for Nigeria.
“I’m here to serve,” he declared “and I promise to help correct all those mistakes that have happened over the years. And you will agree with me that we are trying to do so.
“Since I assumed office as the Registrar of Trademarks, we have cleared all the backlogs of unattended application in the office.
“What we are tackling now are the opposition cases; once we are done with that, we can beat our chest to say we have brought the Trademarks Registry up to speed as a 21st century registry in terms of its operations.”
Dr Yauri, however, noted that the laws governing the intellectual property space in Nigeria were obsolete and needed to be reviewed.
The Chairman of the NBA SBL, IP Committee, Barrister Afam Nwokedi, however, noted that more worrying problem was the proliferation of intellectual property bills at the National Assembly.
He called for the harmonisation of the plethora of IP bills that were before the National Assembly some of which had gone through First and Second Reading.
“The most important bill of all is the IPCOM bill, sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, which has gone through First and Second Reading.
“But it is unfortunate that there is politicisation of the bill owing to the tussle between the Ministry of Justice and Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment for the rights to supervise the new Commission that was proposed to be set up in the bill.
“One of the areas that need urgent amendments before we embarrass ourselves is the issue of service marks.”
He therefore called for the separation of the administrative aspect of the bill from the substantive law, so that the politics associated with the administrative part of the bill would not interfere with the passage of the substantive law.
This, he said was urgently needed to provide the required legal framework for a befitting IP system for 21st century Nigeria.
A media mogul, Mr Jamilu Ibrahim, in considering the challenges and hurdles that need to be surmounted to achieve the objectives articulated at the National IP Stakeholders meeting, charged the IP First Group, to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) which was set up by the Buhari administration to remove the bottlenecks that were constraining business processes in Nigeria.
Ibrahim said that the Council would help in removing obstacles inhibiting the establishment of an effective and efficient IP system expected to help create an environment in Nigeria where creativity and innovation can flourish.
Professor Johnson Ekpere formerly of the University of Ibadan, who was praised for his consistency in the struggle to put in place an effective IP system for over a period of 28 years, urged stakeholders not to relent on their efforts in helping to realise the objective of putting in place a robust IP system.
Ms Lara Kayode, one of the co-chairs at the event, called for the identification of IP icons and champions in Nigeria to support the initiative, while Dr Murtala Amin of the Faculty of Law of Uthman Dan Fodio University Sokoto, called on IP First Group to involve members of the academia to also support the initiative.