Conference highlights challenges of IP rights enforcement
An IP session entitled "Enforcement of IP Rights in a Globalized Economy" was held on March 27 2008 during the Third Business Law Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association. The discussions focused on the various mechanisms of enforcement from a Nigerian and global perspective.
From the Nigerian perspective, the topic was analyzed from the point of view of:
- the courts;
- the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry;
- the Nigerian Copyright Commission;
- the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC);
- manufacturers; and
- legal practitioners.
The discussions addressed the enforcement of various IP rights (copyright, patents, designs, trademarks and service marks).
The chief judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdullahi Mustapha, stated that the enforcement of IP rights may be achieved through civil or criminal proceedings, depending on the circumstances of each case. However, the challenges faced by the courts in this regard include:
- a lack of relevant case law;
- insufficient numbers of interpreters (where the infringers are non-English speakers); and
- the limited effect of interlocutory orders.
In addition, the director general of NAFDAC, Dora Akunyili, identified the following factors as promoting counterfeiting activities:
- the lack of public awareness;
- the chaotic drug distribution system; and
- the poorness of the database on health-related activities.
Moreover, according to the director general of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, Adebambo Adewopo, the main challenge faced by the commission is inadequate funding. The success of the commission's enforcement initiative will depend on the strength of its strategic partnership with stakeholders in various industries.
Further, the registrar of the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry, Hadjia JK Ahmadu-Suka, presented a paper identifying the challenges encountered by legal practitioners in the enforcement of IP rights. These included:
- the fact that all operations at the registry are performed manually;
- the lack of public awareness; and
- the lack of public confidence in the various mechanisms for the enforcement of IP rights.
It was noted that Nigeria's archaic and outdated IP legislation represents a major drawback for the enforcement of IP rights (eg, the Nigerian Trademarks Act is a replica of the UK Trademarks Act 1938).
Finally, it was concluded that collaboration between the governmental agencies involved in the enforcement of IP rights and cooperation between customs authorities worldwide were necessary in order to strengthen the enforcement of IP rights.
Sade Laniyan, Jackson Etti & Edu, Lagos
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