New rules may protect service marks in Nigeria


The Nigerian registrar of trademarks has announced that the minister of commerce and industry has approved rules incorporating service marks into the classification contained in the Fourth Schedule of the Trademark Regulations. Under the new dispensation, the Ninth Edition of the Nice Classification of goods and services is to be used.

The approval was granted pursuant to Section 45(1)(b) of the Trademarks Act and comes following recommendations made by the registrar and pressure from IP practitioners.

The Trademarks Act has yet to be amended to reflect this new development and there is ongoing speculation as to the effect of an amendment of the regulations without an accompanying act of parliament.

While an amendment of the substantive law will be welcomed by the IP community in Nigeria, many practitioners have long since adopted a pragmatic approach to service marks for, among others, the following reasons:

  • the relatively high demand for the registration of service marks in Nigeria;

  • the registrar's commitment and willingness to accept and process service mark applications; and

  • the fact that service mark applications are being accepted and processed at the trademarks registry.

Various attempts have been made to amend the Trademarks Act so as to render possible the registration of service marks. However, as a result of the various challenges faced in this respect, such as delays and lack of interest on the part of the legislature, it was decided that, to make more expedient progress, the minister of commerce should issue rules on the registration of service marks.

It is hoped that the regulations will allow for official protection of service marks in Nigeria; the worst case scenario will be that while service marks will be accepted for registration, the registration will be fully ratified only after the substantive law (ie, the Trademarks Act) is amended and comes into force.

Sade Laniyan, Jackson Etti and Edu, Lagos

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