Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has called for a comprehensive reform to strengthen intellectual rights in areas of registration, protection, enhancement and enforcement in Nigeria.
The Vice President noted on Monday at a virtual discussion on “Innovation, IP and SMEs: Opportunities and Challenges for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Driving Nigeria’s Economic Recovery” that a weak Intellectual Property Protection regime hinders Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), innovation, research and development and technology transfer which negatively impact entrepreneurs and consumers.
The event was organised by the Sub-sahara office of World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to commemorate World Intellectual Property (IP) day being marked on April 26 annually.
The IP Day is marked to appreciate ingenuity and creativity behind every SMEs including innovations, patents, inventions, trademarks, copyrights and their impact on humanity.
In a key note address, Osinbajo, represented by Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, regretted that over the years, Nigeria had become a target destination and transit route for counterfeit and pirated goods.
He added that foreign and local traders had flooded the market with sub-standard products and illegally imitated products of established brands.
In this regard, he disclosed that the Trademark and Patents Registry of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has commenced digitisation and automation of trademarks and patents to create a database and automate application processing.
He said that the digitisation would ultimately offer adequate protection for holders of trademark and patent rights and foster the confidence of businesses across various sectors and strengthen consumer assurance.
Osinbajo further noted that the Nigerian Copyrights Commission, after the execution of the memorandum of understanding with WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center on Alternative Dispute Resolution in 2020, enabled SMEs to adopt an alternate system for dispute resolution.
According to him, the resolution which is in diverse fields of intellectual property, including copyright, instead of resorting to court litigation will ensure that disputes are resolved amicably without the cost of legal proceedings.
He also expressed dissatisfaction that in the last 10 years, Nigeria had been ranked among the top 10 countries where piracy was most prevalent with the average rate hovering between 80 per cent and 90 per cent.
This, he attributed to low public awareness about which Intellectual Property rights were protected under the law and ineffective mechanisms for the protection and enforcement of such rights.
The Vice President also noted lack of coordination among various agencies of government involved in the development and protection of Intellectual Property Rights and Inadequate sanctions for infringements.
“All these largely make holders of registered Intellectual Property rights vulnerable to infringements,” he noted.
He called for purposeful collaboration between the ministry, government agencies and private sector organisations to develop policy frameworks toward addressing Intellectual Property rights infringements in Nigeria.
WIPO Director-General, Daren Tang, in an address highlighted the critical importance of connecting SMEs with intellectual property for businesses and communities to thrive.
“SMEs are the unsung heroes of the economy. IP tools can help them translate their ideas into products and services. Let’s work together to raise greater awareness of IP and help our local businesses take their ideas to market.
“SMEs are the backbone of economy, and when we put them together, they make up 90 per cent of all companies globally, employ 70 per cent of workers globally and make up half of the world’s economy,’’ Tang said.
Ms Victoria Akai, Director-General, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called on stakeholders to support Chambers of Commerce to expand education of their members on intellectual property protection and registration.
Akai, represented by Director, ACCI Policy Centre, Mr Olawale Rasheed, urged government, local and international agencies to partner with chambers of Commerce and Industry all over Nigeria to increase awareness on the importance of intellectual property protection.
While listing what the Chamber was doing on IP education for SMEs, the director said continuous education and enlightenment of SMEs should be taken alongside resolution of challenges of patent and trademark registration.
According to her, registration and access issues hamper SMEs’ efforts to take advantage of opportunities available in intellectual property protection.
“We call for closer link between innovators and chambers of commerce as well as stronger ties between research Institutions and SMEs through ACCI, Trademark and Patent offices should open liaison offices with Chamber of Commerce and Industry.’’ Akai said.