What inspired you to pursue a career in intellectual property, and what advice would you give to others considering a similar path?
As an undergraduate, I was fascinated by the thought of intangible items being regarded as property and the fact that individuals could possess ownership rights over these. This evoked my interest in intellectual property and subsequently informed my decision to study and pursue a career in it. To date, I cannot say that I regret that decision.
My advice to anyone seeking a career in intellectual property will be to always follow their passion because with passion comes the drive required to sustain it, regardless of the chosen field of practice.
As founder of your own firm, what could the industry be doing to improve opportunities, hiring processes and diversity?
I think that industry practitioners need to engage more with students and those less informed about intellectual property and the importance of protecting it. By doing this, we develop an interest in the subject matter and gradually create a larger IP community. This would create a situation where young graduates are more easily employable as a result of their familiarity with intellectual property.
At the risk of sounding idealistic, I believe that law firms should develop and implement remuneration benchmarks that they cannot fall under. This will help to make the practice more attractive and ensure a reward system for diligence.
It is also vital to implement diversity-inclusive recruitment policies in law firms aimed at creating more opportunities for differently abled people, who comprise a small portion of the working population.
What are some of the most common mistake foreign rights holders make when seeking to enforce their rights in sub-Saharan Africa, and how can they avoid them?
The most common mistake that foreign rights holders make is the decision to engage proper counsel with the requisite knowledge to handle their IP portfolio and secure their rights within the jurisdiction of their choice. Such mistakes can best be avoided by conducting proper consultations with peers in the field and adequate pre-engagement findings before counsel is briefed on any matter.
What are the biggest challenges facing your clients at present, and how are you helping them manage these?
The biggest challenge currently facing clients is deciding which IP assets to protect and how best to protect them. Usually, this is an internal decision made by the company’s business arm; the attorney is only made aware of the existing intellectual property presented by the company. I am able to assist clients in overcoming these challenges by using my knowledge and experience gained from many years of practice and offering my firm’s services to adequately advise and direct them.
You are an active participant in several INTA groups and national/international IP-related forums. How do you predict future legislative developments to influence the Nigerian IP landscape in the next 12 months?
The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria only recently signed the Copyright Bill into law, and today we have the Copyright Act 2022. As a result, digital works have become expressly protected by copyright in this jurisdiction, which is a significant step in Nigerian IP legislation. We currently have a draft Trademark Bill from 2019 that is awaiting signature before the National Assembly. Further, a multi-stakeholder workshop was held with the World Intellectual Property Organisation from 13 to 15 September 2022, the purpose of which was to accept the draft National Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy. This workshop concluded with a unanimous confirmation. I foresee a bright future for IP legislation in Nigeria. This dedication was a smart business decision from the federal government because it is imperative that IP matters are taken seriously through active legal reform. The government is directly improving the nation’s investment outlook by ensuring a safe and secure climate for foreign businesses to thrive.
Lara Kayode is the firm’s founding partner. She manages trademark, patent and design portfolios for domestic and international clients in Nigeria and throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Ms Kayode advises clients on matters concerning regulatory bodies and handles anticounterfeiting and trademark portfolios for high-profile multinationals and FMCG companies. An active member of INTA, she is the current vice chair of the Building Bridges committee, chair of Africa’s global advisory council and vice president of AIPPI Nigeria.