Nigeria

Nigeria has not signed up to any regional or international trademark registration systems, and its IP framework often comes in for criticism for this reason. Commentators would like to see this addressed and suggest that the reduced prosecution costs that result from such participation would make the country more attractive to investors to an extent that should more than compensate for any shortfall in IP work available to local practitioners. This notwithstanding, the firms selected for inclusion in the WTR 1000 2017 are outward-looking organisations with a nuanced grasp of regional and global IP issues.

Firms

2
Allan & Ogunkeye
Aluko & Oyebode
Banwo & Ighodalo
GRF Dalley & Partners
O Kayode & Co
Stillwaters Law Firm, Legal Practitioners, Trademark & Patent Agents
Allan & Ogunkeye
Allan & Ogunkeye is a general commercial law firm with a particularly strong foundation in intellectual property: it has continually honed its trademark expertise since it opened its doors in 1982. With a keen commercial eye, it handles protection and enforcement matters practically and cost efficiently. Practitioners are active participants in various IP organisations and have a high degree of international knowledge and awareness. All three of the firm’s partners boast IP expertise, but supervisory duties fall on Timothy Olubor, who is particularly focused on the discipline. His silky advocacy skills make him a great choice for contentious mandates.
Aluko & Oyebode
One of Nigeria’s largest law firms, Aluko & Oyebode is regularly top ranked in multiple practice areas, including corporate, dispute resolution and finance. An instinctive awareness of the commercial importance of intangible assets in the global market means that it is likewise no slouch in the IP space. Its proactive approach to monitoring potential infringements of clients’ brands puts it one step ahead of copycats and enables it to put disputes quickly to bed; it clears and secures trademark rights with a sure hand, too. Litigation partner Mark Mordi is a polished performer in IP cases and a useful contact.
Banwo & Ighodalo
Deep legal know-how gives this firm the confidence and capacity to seek out innovative solutions to clients’ problems – a task it performs with particular proficiency in the trademark area. It partners closely with companies from the moment a new brand is conceived, proving a vital ally throughout the trademark lifecycle. A specialism in anti-counterfeiting is another badge of distinction for the firm, which leverages superbly on its strong government relations to take down the manufacturers and distributors of fake goods. A perfectionist who nevertheless knows how to get things done, Femi Olubanwo is a great name for the address book.
GRF Dalley & Partners
An extensive network of alliances with quality service providers throughout Africa means that GRF Dalley’s coverage is not limited to its home turf; it can ably cater to clients’ IP needs across the wider continent too. Its local insight, however, is unquestionable and has been finely tuned throughout its nearly 60-year history. Portfolio management is a particular forte; thanks to the group’s outstanding communication skills and quick responses, clients always know where they stand in relation to their IP rights. Senior partner Babatunde Dalley – an English barrister and Nigerian lawyer – is a trailblazer in this market. Having helped to shape them, he knows the country’s IP laws inside out. “Jackson, Etti & Edu advertises itself as a law firm for Africa and it lives up to its billing. It handles matters across the continent with extreme competence and can be trusted 100%.” “I wouldn’t deal with any other firm,” avers one source; “I’ve worked with it for years and it has never left me disappointed. It is very swift in prosecution and provides excellent and far-sighted general counsel.” The sole gold-tier occupant, it focuses on intellectual property to a much greater degree than its competitors, and matches a dedicated trademark prosecution team with an IP litigation, oppositions and anti-counterfeiting unit that acts under the aegis of its redoubtable dispute resolution group. Where no other Nigerian firm has more than one individual listed in the tables, this outfit has three who make the grade. IP head Uwa Ohiku is a favourite of blue-chip patrons for portfolio management and domain name matters; as is Chinyere Okorocha, a partner who has been at the forefront of developments in the national IP framework. Making his debut in the guide this year, Obafemi Agaba leads the brand protection and media and entertainment sections from the front.
O Kayode & Co
The IP offering at WTR 1000 debutant O Kayode & Co is comprehensive, encompassing patents, trademarks and designs. The firm acts across all African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation and Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle territories, to superb effect. Negative decisions from – and administrative lapses by – the Nigerian trademark registry never slow its stride; its tenacity recently allowed it to secure key registrations for Merck Sharp & Dohme. The set has a growing enforcement practice and recently represented a famous champagne brand in a challenging anti-counterfeiting investigation. Founding partner Lara Kayode is one of the most active Nigerian participants in the International Trademark Association and a former board member of the organisation. She manages portfolios with aplomb and is an enforcement expert and skilled mediator.
Stillwaters Law Firm, Legal Practitioners, Trademark & Patent Agents
Intellectual property is a central pillar at Stillwaters, a progressive commercial outfit established early in the new millennium. It boasts a striking record of success in terms of both obtaining trademark rights from the registry and securing favourable outcomes in disputes, on behalf of a diverse mix of multinational brands and local start-ups. Afamefuna Francis Nwokedi is the firm’s principal counsel, providing strong leadership to a dynamic team of young, up-and-coming professionals.

Individuals

Obafemi Agaba - Jackson, Etti & Edu
G Babatunde Dalley - GRF Dalley & Partners
Lara Kayode - O Kayode & Co
Afamefuna Francis Nwokedi - Stillwaters Law Firm, Legal Practitioners, Trademark & Patent Agents
Uwa Ohiku - Jackson, Etti & Edu
Chinyere Okorocha - Jackson, Etti & Edu
Femi Olubanwo - Banwo & Ighodalo
Timothy Olubor - Allan & Ogunkeye
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Issue 67