Nigeria

Protecting trademarks in Nigeria can be a challenging business; although the Nigerian industrial property office has now introduced online filing, practitioners still report significant delays caused by a backlog of cases. Not helping the overall IP environment is the fact that the country’s trademark laws have remained untouched since 1965 – and are based on UK legislation enacted in 1938. However, discussions regarding regime overhaul are picking up pace, which has IP practitioners and other stakeholders optimistic about the future. The recent announcement regarding the opening of a new trademark tribunal to handle oppositions shows that the market is moving in the right direction.

Firms

Allan & Ogunkeye

“One of the pioneers of IP practice in Nigeria, Allan & Ogunkeye continues to be a go-to outfit for trademark services in the country.” Anchored by Obatosin Babatunde Ogunkeye and Timothy Olubor, the group takes good care of any and all trademark instructions, despatching routine registrations efficiently and more complex enforcement cases strategically. Ogunkeye is a respected advocate and is responsible for all contentious cases. All-rounder Olubor’s workflow also touches on enforcement, but his key focus lies in prosecution –he currently supervises the practice.

Aluko & Oyebode

Aluko & Oyebode stands out as one of the largest commercial firms in Nigeria; it employs more than 80 attorneys across its three strategically positioned offices. Such vast human capital, along with technical sophistication, has long translated into an excellent all-round service. In intellectual property, the ensemble makes light work of registrations and filings for clients in all sectors. It shines especially bright in its deft handling of trademark disputes, copyright infringements and anti-counterfeiting cases. Uche Nwokocha, a new face in the WTR 1000 this year, is the person to call; she lives and breathes intellectual property and has an infectious enthusiasm that propels leading brand owners to success against infringers.

ǼLEX

A full-service outfit with a culture of collaboration, ǼLEX does an outstanding job getting its various legal departments to pull in the same direction, which leads to a satisfyingly comprehensive and holistic service for patrons. The firm’s IP practice is an impressive one; its specialised team is responsible for more than 4,000 trademarks and takes a proactive approach to the management of portfolios in Nigeria, Ghana and African Intellectual Property Organisation countries. The well-connected side is a popular choice for foreign associates but maintains close direct relations with brand owners, too, including Kraft Heinz, which it is representing in oppositions, and Coca-Cola, which it recently advised on a major transaction requiring the complex restructuring of IP ownership between the deal parties. Leading the practice is Theophilus Emuwa, a prolific writer on trademark topics who makes his 25 years’ experience count when counselling clients. Davidson Oturu is equally skilled in trademark registration, infringement disputes, anti-counterfeiting, licensing and franchising; he deploys his well-rounded expertise to great effect, giving rigorous advice on all manner of topics.

Banwo & Ighodalo

Banwo & Ighodalo has a lot of momentum right now; the firm recently moved to new, more modern premises and is also seeing a significant increase in client demand for its “fast, responsive and high-quality service and reasonable fees”. More than simply filing marks and maintaining portfolios, the outfit plays a pivotal role in setting brand strategy for clients such as the Dangote Group, the largest indigenous industrial conglomerate in sub-Saharan Africa with more than 20 subsidiaries. Inspiring and motivating the team as its captain is Femi Olubanwo, a veteran adviser to multinationals and industry leaders on the protection and enforcement of intangible rights across Africa. He is president of the Intellectual Property Law Association of Nigeria and is regularly called on by the government to advise on IP law and policy. Recommended alongside him in the WTR 1000 this year is Chinasa Uwanna, a senior associate whose blended IP, regulatory and commercial law expertise is a boon to those requiring multi-layered advice.

G Elias & Co 

One of the finest commercial law firms in Nigeria, G Elias & Co is perfectly set up to meet all a business’s legal needs. When it comes to intellectual property, the side has a special flair for negotiating and executing IP-driven deals and maintaining a busy licensing, franchising and M&A due diligence practice. Trademark registrations are handled efficiently, not only in Nigeria, but also across the continent thanks to the firm’s membership in the Africa Legal Network. Fred Onuobia has “a keen appreciation of trademark law developments and is an excellent choice for IP matters in West Africa”.

Jackson, Etti & Edu

Once again the sole occupant of the WTR 1000 gold tier, Jackson, Etti & Edu is truly in a league of its own. “It is at the forefront of IP practice in Africa – its attorneys are extremely well versed in all aspects of IP law and provide an outstanding and wide-ranging brands and patents service.” The team is distinguished by its sector-led approach and ability to overlay its substantive trademark law advice with invaluable industry insights; energy, consumer goods, financial services, life sciences, infrastructure and technology are key theatres of expertise. Attesting to the firm’s deep bench, it has three partners recommended in the guide this year – Chinyere Okorocha, Obafemi Agaba and Uwa Ohiku. The architect of the sector approach, Okorocha knows that what clients want more than anything is business-relevant advice – and she delivers. Agaba is comfortable in the limelight of high-stakes contentious matters and is currently acting for W&J Gallo Winery in a Federal High Court trademark infringement action; together with Ohiku, he is also acting for Cachez Trading Company and Bagno Designs in a trademark infringement action that looks set to make a big splash with regard to genericity. Ohiku heads the IP department, where she has an excellent track record representing household-name brands, and where she is fastidious about work quality across the team. In addition, she regularly takes to the podium as a speaker and contributes to legislative reform efforts; she is also a top expert in arbitration and was for some time the only Nigerian WIPO domain names panellist.

O Kayode & Co 

Described by a competitor as “the top firm for trademarks” in Nigeria, O Kayode & Co enjoys a stellar reputation in domestic – as well as international – IP circles. Rock-solid in prosecution and portfolio management, the boutique has cultivated an extremely robust enforcement practice. which continues to grow; leveraging close cooperation with government agencies, it brings the heat in the fight against fakes and has seen to many successful raids. In charge of the practice is Lara Kayode, whom clients find to be “of the highest level in terms of professionalism, skill and reliability”. One source comments, “Lara is essential to our short and long-term profitability as a business in Nigeria. She advises on the law but, more importantly, on how the law is implemented on the ground – the value of her practical expertise cannot be overstated. Over the years our relationship has grown and I now consider her a friend to go to for non-legal as well as legal guidance. I trust her to guide me towards the correct actions. If you’re looking for a contact in Nigeria, there’s literally no better choice than Lara.”

Okey IP

Okey IP is a trusted local IP partner for many and a leanly run boutique with abundant experience protecting and enforcing trademark rights and giving commercial brand advice. It has nurtured positive relations with examiners, customs officials and other significant IP market actors, enabling it to achieve results swiftly even against strong headwinds. For brand-related matters, Okechukwu Onyekanma is the appropriate point of contact.

Olajide Oyewole LLP

As the exclusive Nigerian member of the DLA Piper Africa alliance, Olajide Oyewole puts immense continental and global resources at the fingertips of its clients. As well as this international capability – a clear unique selling point – the side acquits itself with distinction in trademark practice, shoring up watertight brand protections, planning and executing effective brand development strategies, creating IP value through licensing and monitoring and dealing with infringers. The firm has recently bolstered its IP practice with new associate hires and is playing an ever more active role in training judges on IP subjects. Otu Ukoyen presides over the trademark practice and is one of the market’s rising stars. With his blend of branding, advertising and regulatory expertise, he can support rights holders in many meaningful ways.

Other recommended experts

ACAS-LAW’s founder Afolabi Caxton-Martins oversees the IP department at the firm, leveraging three decades of experience to provide sage counsel on transactions and contentious matters. Also at ACAS-LAW, ultra-dedicated senior associate Uzoamaka Emerole takes day-to-day responsibility for the group’s key trademark clients, which include Jack Daniels.

Individuals