Over the years, concrete efforts have been made to develop Nigeria's indigenous IP regime. The earliest attempt at developing Nigeria’s IP dates to post-independence Nigeria. However, these various attempts have not been fruitful as Nigeria has failed to fully exploit the benefits that could be accrued from proper management and protection of Intellectual Property Rights in the country. The current economic and trade conditions in the world is susceptible to change, therefore requiring constant improvement to ensure economic development. These conditions will stimulate innovation and improvements in Nigeria’s technology, designs, and other tangible and intangible assets. It will also create incentives for Nigerians to invent continuously by providing some form of compensation and guarantee that innovations will be credited to the true inventors. This can only be achievable through the promotion of intellectual property rights and provisions of competent IP policies to promote economic development in Nigeria.
IP can benefit the Nigerian economy in numerous ways:
One of the most intriguing benefits of Intellectual Property is its ability to influence investment. IP can attract foreign direct investment and provide the necessary conditions for the transfer of technology. This is evident in the number of investors from Europe and America that invest directly in tech startups in Nigeria. IP also facilitates the transfer of technology such as patent licensing through an active use of patent information. There is no doubt that IP protection plays a catalytic role in inspiring research and development in a country. Therefore, the effective commercialization of IP is indeed a significant stimulus to the economic growth of Nigeria, if properly managed and adequately protected.
One of the most intriguing benefits of Intellectual Property is its ability to influence investment. IP can attract foreign direct investment and provide the necessary conditions for the transfer of technology.
IP Challenges in the Nigerian Economy
The IP regime in Nigeria has a lot of challenges. These challenges have hindered the growth and development of IP in Nigeria and caused a setback in the various attempts to fully commercialize IP in Nigeria. One of the dominating challenges of IP in Nigeria is the lack of proper sensitization on the various benefits that could be gotten from IP. Also, most Nigerians are ignorant about their IP rights due to the absence of educative IP seminars for potential IP owners, non-incorporation of courses on IP in the curriculum of Nigerian Universities, amongst other inherent challenges.
Another challenge with IP in Nigeria is the passive involvement of the Government in Intellectual Property Law. It is apparent that most Nigerian IP laws are archaic and outdated. For instance, the Trade Marks Act was enacted in 1967 (which is a re-enactment of the UK's 1938 Trade Marks Act).
Also, most innovations are not registered due to a lack of adequate Property laws to protect the interests of creators by giving them proprietary rights (Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)) over their creations. Infringement of IPRs undermines genuine investment in creativity, innovation, and knowledge. Invariably, the granting of exclusive proprietary rights (usually in consideration of the disclosure of the creation), creates an incentive for creators to develop, produce, and distribute new and genuine goods and services for commercial purpose.
Further to the above identified challenges, IP Infringements is another major challenge to IP rights and development in Nigeria. These violations are more dominant in the following industries: book publishing (book piracy), information and communications technology – ICT – (internet & software piracy) and film and entertainment (musical & cinematography disc piracy). A Piracy study undertaken by Business Software Alliance analysts revealed that "Nigeria is ranked among 25 countries where piracy is most prevalent.
Coupled with infringement of IP rights is the lack of an efficient deterrent enforcement system. It is apparent that reforming our IP legislation alone may not achieve optimum results in protecting IPR holders, except the mechanism for enforcing the law is equally enhanced. Law enforcement agents, particularly the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigeria Customs Service, need to be more empowered to carry out their policing and prosecution functions.
Another setback to the commercialization of IP in Nigeria is the unwillingness of the Nigerian Legislature to domesticate IP Treaties such as The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and the Patent Cooperation Treaty. It is noteworthy that this setback is attributable to the provision of the constitution that does not allow a treaty to be domesticated automatically upon ratification. According to Section 12 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria “No treaty between the federation and any other country shall have the face of law except to the extent to which such treaty has been enacted into law by the national assembly.”
Inadequate policies by Government on Intellectual Property also form a roadblock to IP commercialization in Nigeria. For instance, there is currently no special body with the mandate to generally oversee the various IP regimes in Nigeria instead certain industry-specific institutions and regulations have been established over the years to govern IP in the country like The Nigerian Copyright Commission, The Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry etc
One of the ways to tackle the inherent problems associated with IP in Nigeria is to update our laws and incorporate the protection of IP rights on certain IP that are deemed mundane in the African society, such as the IP associated with smell and sound. This approach has been adopted by advanced economies of the world and has yielded positive results. Also, the legislature needs to ratify relevant treaties that can bring about the advancement of IP in Nigeria.
Institutions and their infrastructure should also be proactively modernized and digitalized for a seamless foray into the global markets. Sector stakeholders (particularly IP lawyers, judicial bodies, law teachers and law reform commissions, regulatory bodies, and the general populace) should promote the development of Nigerian jurisprudence in IP While also advocating for more competent judges skilled in IP laws in the nation's judiciary.
In another breath, there should be improvements on the sensitization of Nigerian citizens on their IP rights under a plethora of Nigerian legislations. This could be achieved through advertisement, seminars and symposium in technical schools, institution of higher learning, companies, and Industries where most innovations are carried out.
It is also suggested that there should be a thorough review of Patent and Trademark laws which are archaic and contains a lot of deficiencies. Also, there should be enforcement of Intellectual Property rights to ensure effective enforcement mechanism is put in place by providing adequate resources to combat counterfeiting and piracy.
Intellectual Property is now perceived as an important source of economic growth process in developing countries. The developing countries are signatories of the World Trade Organization, which means that these countries are committed to complying with the TRIPs agreement.
Nigeria cannot ignore this agreement, or they would be isolated from the world. The pace of this implementation makes important to make necessary arrangements to take part, otherwise, Nigeria may face repercussions in terms of access to the international markets, withdrawal of Generalized System of Preferences and weakened confidence on the part of foreign investors.
Similarly, the problem of counterfeit products, which cause huge annual losses to industries and reduced tax to GDP ratio due to lack of documentation, can be addressed through adequate IPR protection measures.