With 2019 an election year, political uncertainty abounds in Nigeria which is stunting economic growth. However, there is still strong foreign investor interest in the country given the value of its consumer market, particularly relative to other African jurisdictions. For international brand owners though, protecting and enforcing rights is a challenging task; Nigerian trademark law is extremely outdated and IP practitioners and others are pushing for the enactment of new legislation. Inefficiency at the trademark office is another obstacle to effective rights protection.
Allan & Ogunkeye
Intellectual property is a central plank of Allan & Ogunkeye’s general practice. Within the specialised trademark discipline, the ensemble provides a comprehensive suite of services providing clients with peace of mind that their brands will be protected come what may. The first to secure a search and seizure order from a Nigerian court in a copyright infringement action (back in 1985), the firm has been on the IP enforcement frontline for a long time. Experienced advocate Timothy Olubor is the person to call for trademark registration, maintenance, litigation and commercialisation guidance.
Aluko & Oyebode
Nigeria’s largest full-service law firm, Aluko & Oyebode leads from the front in myriad legal disciplines, including intellectual property. For brand owners seeking consistent trademark strategy across borders, the organisation’s combination of local and international knowledge is excellent. Worthy of special mention is the set’s hard-hitting anti-counterfeiting offering. Mark Mordi has ample IP enforcement experience and joins the WTR 1000 in recognition of his track record obtaining powerful remedies against infringers.
A new name in the Nigeria rankings this year, ǼLEX is a quality full-service operation with a lean and efficient trademark prosecution practice and an exemplary litigation and enforcement track record. The crew has had no shortage of work over the past year; the team assisted Kentucky Fried Chicken and FIFA on major trademark renewal and recordal projects; overturned trademark registration refusals for Food Concepts; and successfully registered trademarks for Motorola and Huawei Technologies. On the contentious side, the group also handled an interesting copyright ownership dispute concerning a jingle, which made use of its client’s – Retail Supermarkets Nigeria – SHOPRITE mark. Taking advantage of his 25-plus years of experience, captain of the IP group Theophilus Emuwa lays out clear paths forward for his clients. An active member of INTA, particularly in a writing and editorial capacity, he is an esteemed member of the international trademark and IP community. Specialising in IP litigation, Davidson Oturu is another contact for the address book. He engages in important extra-curricular activities too and has lately been pushing for the enactment of new trademark laws in Nigeria.
Banwo & Ighodalo
Banwo & Ighodalo is a leading corporate outfit that knows a thing or two about the business of brands. Clients come here for commercially infused advice on IP protection, use and monetisation – they always leave happy. Partnering effectively with government agencies, the team takes the fight to fakers and moves nimbly in court to tackle any type of infringer. Laser-focused on quality and results, Femi Olubanwo sets the tone. His practice is a broad church, encompassing IP, banking, project finance and commercial law.
G Elias & Co
ISO 9001:2008 certified, G Elias & Co runs a tight ship. The IP practitioners here are quick to respond, practical of mind and detail-oriented; they demonstrate equal dexterity procuring, defending, enforcing and commercialising trademarks and other IP rights. The firm makes light work of regional and pan-African mandates thanks to its membership of the Africa Legal Network. Interested parties would be wise to call managing partner Fred Onuobia.
IPI Watch Services
That IP assets are critical business assets is very much the perspective of the practitioners at IPI Watch Services. Laying a foundation of thorough research and analysis, they architect solutions to all types of problems associated with the protection and infringement of trademark rights, enabling clients to realise their commercial objectives in Nigeria and across the continent. With a background in commercial law, director and managing partner Bolanle Olowu is the inspiration behind the firm’s pragmatic approach. She contributes to legislative drafting efforts and has emerged victorious from numerous IP litigations, making her one of the best-rounded IP professionals in the country.
Jackson, Etti & Edu garners warm recommendations from foreign associates: “It cultivates strong relationships, responds rapidly to all enquiries, does meticulous work – and it won’t ever let you down.” The firm is “incredibly impressive when it comes to anti-counterfeiting”, which it offers as part of the most all-inclusive trademark and IP package available in the country. It renders its services across the continent too, flexing an unbeatable knowledge of law, systems and go-to experts in myriad African countries. It also has the deepest team of specialists, three of whom make the WTR 1000 grade – Uwa Ohiku, Chinyere Okorocha and Obafemi Agaba. Ohiku brings strong leadership to the IP group and is Nigeria’s leading authority on domain names; Okorocha deftly manages valuable IP portfolios for well-known brands, leading the health and pharmaceuticals sector group and supervising all other sector heads in the firm; Agaba, who comes from a commercial litigation background, is an ace on enforcement and brand protection who has a granular understanding of the fast-moving consumer goods sector.
O Kayode & Co
O Kayode is startlingly efficient at obtaining trademark registrations – its IP professionals maintain good relations with examiners and know all about the inner workings and tendencies of the Nigerian trademark office registry – and how to overcome the challenges associated with registry funding, equipment and staffing that regularly affect prosecution in the country. Thanks to its excellent interpersonal skills, the set has also nurtured close friendships with other top IP firms across Africa, enabling it to protect clients to the hilt across the continent – and even further afield. Taking the reins is enforcement mastermind and IP protection all-rounder Lara Kayode.
Abuja-based boutique Okey IP sees to prosecution expeditiously, manages and maintains portfolios proficiently and takes the fight to infringers and counterfeits robustly. In tune with its clients’ business objectives and rich in wider industry knowledge, the Okey practitioners acquit themselves with distinction. Quick to respond to instructions, Okey Onyekanma manages the team astutely.
Stillwaters Law Firm
Clients of Stillwaters receive access to highly specialised IP advice alongside the resources and wider commercial perspective of a general practice law firm. The team prosecutes trademark applications with an eye not only to obtaining isolated rights but also to creating commercially valuable portfolios. If trademarks need to be enforced, the group has the tools, the tenacity and the experience to see things through. Additional notable areas of expertise include product labelling and registration and domain names. Afam Nwokedi is principal counsel there.
- Obafemi Agaba - Jackson, Etti & Edu
- Theophilus Emuwa - ǼLEX
- Lara Kayode - O Kayode & Co
- Afam Nwokedi - Stillwaters Law Firm
- Uwa Ohiku - Jackson, Etti & Edu
- Chinyere Okorocha - Jackson, Etti & Edu
- Bolanle Olowu - IPI Watch Services
- Femi Olubanwo - Banwo & Ighodalo
- Timothy Olubor - Allan & Ogunkeye
- Fred Onuobia - G Elias & Co
- Davidson Oturu - ǼLEX