Ayobami Adisa is a trained Legal Practitioner with over 10 years experience in IT Law, corporate legal practices, business structuring, commercial transactions, mergers & acquisition and IP law. He is an ethics and compliance executive, and he has been opportune to represent clients from different sectors of the economy in court. He sheds more light on Intellectual Property Law in this article.
– By Ayobami Adisa
Intellectual Property (IP) Law generally relates to that arm of law that seeks to protect the ownership of mental / intellectually generated ideas or services. There are about three areas of IP. They are trademarks, patents, designs and copyright.
- Patents protect inventions; these are majorly physical things that no one has ever done or come up with.
- Copyrights refer to the protection given to written or artistic expressions. It applies to videography, cinematography etc.
- Trademark, on the other, is the protection of those elements or items that distinguishes a brand or service from other brands or services.
Technology and IP walk hand in hand. As it is, technology is an improvement in the process or the way things are done. Generally, technology is only adopted when claims are laid to it. The laying of claim to technology establishes “the right” that goes along with Intellectual Property. IP right is that element that makes it possible for the developer or owner of the technology to reap the fruits of his or her labour over technology. This also distinguishes a particular product from the other (if not for anything, to enable a customer distinguish between one preferred technology to the other. This is what Trademarks does.
It is important for a tech entrepreneur to be concerned with the entire suite of IP. However, particular attention should be paid to patent and trademarks. Patent ensures that the technology – if new – is not copied or replicated to the extent that a third profits from such technology. Trademarks, on the other hand, ensure that the customers of this technology do not confuse such a product with another product. It also ensures that a particular product is stands out from the other.
Any technology owner who fails to pay attention to IP will either fall foul of infringing the right of others or “makes his bread” free for all. Both cases are very bad for any tech entrepreneur.
For instance, I worked for a company that developed a trademark for a major product that was launched without paying adequate attention to the registration of this trademark. As the product grew and acceptance of same expanded, a competing company proceeded to register the mark out of malice. This led to a major issue for the company I worked with. In trying to recover its right, this company in questions spent millions of naira and a great deal of time. It is important to state that this company lost a lot of business opportunities too.Imagine if this happens to a start-up, it will be dead on arrival. Evidently, IP Law should not be taken with levity.
This is why I will advise companies to seek the opinion of an experienced legal practitioner before taking any step that is tantamount to you launching your technology or announcing it to the world. Now, not all lawyers understand technology, you must seek for those lawyers who have touched technology at its base and not those who scraped the surface. It is also important to engage a lawyer that is passionate about business and technology. This will guarantee any tech entrepreneur the desired ROI, fame and achievement being sourced.
Some are usually sceptical about IP Law within the Nigerian space but like I believe, “the easiest place to build a skyscraper is the bare land where nothing exists before.” Nigeria is a virgin land where all things good are possible. The future for IP Law in Nigeria is bright.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.