Changes underway at the Trademarks Registry

There have recently been a lot of changes in the operations of the Nigerian Trademarks Registry. While these may not immediately bear fruit, there are indications that they will have positive results in the long run.

The present registrar, Hajia Jamilia Ahmadu Suka, aims to turn the registry into a proactive, forward-looking governmental department (for further details please see "New registrar general appointed"). For instance, on March 10 2010 a meeting was held in Abuja, at the registrar’s behest, between IP practitioners and the registry's staff. Several issues were discussed in order to ensure better service delivery and facilitate good working relationships between the registry and practitioners.

First, the meeting addressed the issue of the registry’s move to a new location. The registry has recently taken steps to move its permanent offices to Ndola Crescent, Wuse Zone 5, Abuja. The new premises are more spacious and it is hoped that this will help the registry’s operations.
However, practitioners are concerned that the lack of structure of the transition may cause more harm than good. At present, official files dating from the inception of the registry to 2002 have been moved to the new site, and only registry staff are allowed to access them. However, there are delays in obtaining documents that concern matters predating 2003. Nevertheless, the registrar assured the parties at the meeting that these concerns were being addressed.
Second, the registrar reiterated her commitment to ensuring that the Trademarks Journal is published every quarter. The new issue of the Journal in out now. It is hoped that future issues will not be marred by the numerous errors that have characterized recently published Journals (for further details please see "New bumper issue of Trademarks Journal released" and "Frequent publication of Trademarks Journal: unexpected problems").
Third, the registrar announced that there would be an increase in official fees, although not immediately. The current fees are low compared to certain jurisdictions. However, parties to the meeting were of the opinion that the level of service in those jurisdictions was much better than that offered by the Nigerian registry, where the procedures are extremely slow and the retrieval of official documents is difficult. Therefore, the practitioners asked the registrar to concentrate on creating a better working environment and providing a good-value service, rather than increasing the official fees.

Finally, a committee consisting of IP practitioners and registry staff was formed to look into the accreditation of firms and agents. Currently, each organization is required to submit the names of two members of staff who will be the only persons accredited to liaise directly with the registry. However, IP practitioners have criticized this system, as it is likely to lead to delays in processing client matters. The registrar thus assured practitioners that the system would be revised to reflect the amount of work sent by each organization to the registry.
Trademark owners, agents and attorneys are watching these developments intently and hoping that the registry will live up to its responsibilities and promises.
Adeola Olumeyan, Jackson Etti & Edu, Lagos

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