The Federal Government has reassured of Nigeria’s commitment to the adoption and implementation of a National Intellectual Property (IP) Policy and Strategy to propel the needed reforms for sustainable development of creative enterprise and wealth creation.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami gave this assurance on Tuesday, 13th September 2022 while declaring open a three-day National Multi-Stakeholders’ Workshop for the Validation of the Draft National Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy of Nigeria in Abuja. The workshop was organised by the frontline agencies responsible for IP in Nigeria, in cooperation with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Represented by the Solicitor General, Mrs Beatrice Jedy-Agba, the AGF stated: “I would like to assure you that the Federal Government will give the final stages of the validation process the necessary attention that it deserves”.
The Justice Minister noted that it is a significant development for Nigeria “as this is the first time Nigeria is taking deliberate steps to put in place a framework to guide the orderly development of its intellectual property system. It is also an opportunity to define a path, in line with global standards, for unlocking and harnessing the country’s rich endowments in the areas of innovation and creativity”.
He expressed hope that the new Intellectual Property Policy would serve as a catalyst for the needed reforms in all aspects of intellectual property law and administration, especially the Trade Marks Act, the Patents and Designs Act as well as the Merchandise Marks Act, all of which require comprehensive review.
“The Government is aware of the importance of a national policy in the generation, protection, use and promotion of intellectual property assets. However, a Policy is only as good as its implementation. It is therefore heartwarming that a complementary implementation strategy has also been developed outside the Policy. As envisaged in that strategy, we must intensify our engagement with relevant stakeholders to make them understand and use the document for informed actions”, he stated.
Mr. Malami remarked that Government has always acknowledged the need for a separate policy on intellectual property based on the conviction that “the future of our economy will be decisively influenced by technology and the creative industry”. He added that the draft policy and strategy being considered was an inclusive, organic and comprehensive blueprint on the protection, administration, use and promotion of intellectual property in the country.
The AGF pointed out: “Convinced of the need to bring the country’s intellectual property laws to international standard, this administration in October 2017 ratified four treaties in the field of copyright. This bold step has been followed by the re-enactment of the Copyright Bill which has been passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly and is awaiting transmission and assent. In addition, earlier in 2021, the President had assented to the Plants Varieties Protection Act as part of a deliberate policy to protect the rights of plant breeders who propagate new and improved plant varieties.”
According to him, the Nigerian Copyright Commission, in collaboration with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities recently developed a Model Intellectual Property Policy for Nigerian Universities. “It is hoped that this National IP Policy would further support the use of the intellectual property system in our tertiary and research institutions as a key to unlocking the wealth in those institutions and diversifying their revenue base”, he added.
The Justice Minister observed that in the last three decades, Nigeria has continued to witness exponential growth of its creative and innovative sectors. He stated that in recognition of the importance of innovation and creativity in empowerment of citizens for wealth creation and national economic development, the present administration has developed various intervention programmes and devoted significant resources to expand the sector as part of a broader development agenda.
He noted that much has been done to empower young men and women in the areas of emerging technology, innovation, creativity, entertainment and fashion. “Some of the direct financial interventions introduced are Project Act Nollywood to grow the production and distribution capacity in the film industry and the Creative Industry Financing Initiative to assist job creation in fashion, entertainment and information technology”, he added.
The AGF acknowledged that the Draft National IP Policy and Strategy was developed through a comprehensive exercise comprising a desk research, review of existing laws and policy, and extensive consultations with stakeholders. He commended the technical input of national and international agencies and experts, including the WIPO; the NCC; National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP); as well as the Commercial Law Department of the Federal Ministry of Industries, Trade and Investment comprising the Trade Marks Registry and the Patent and Designs Registry.
In her remarks, the representative of Director-General of WIPO, Mr. Daren Tang, and the Senior Counsellor, WIPO Division for Africa, Mrs. Loretta Asiedu, stated that no country or business organisation could achieve great success without creativity and innovation.
“It Is important therefore, to develop a framework to unlock innovative potential by facilitating the use of the IP system for economic empowerment by all stakeholder groups and levels, including hitherto underserved parts of the population, including women, youth, small and medium enterprises and indigenous communities”, he said.
Mr. Tang pointed out that, considering developments on the continent, such as the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area, with its potential impact on intellectual property rights, “the time for this framework is now”.
In his words: By adopting a national IP Policy and an implementation strategy, the country is able to outline directives in the administration and management of IPRs across the broad spectrum of national activity. The implementation strategy for the Policy also provides a framework within which a country can engage in technical cooperation not only with WIPO, but with other development partners.”
The WIPO Director-General added that in encouraging and assisting Member States to develop National IP Policies and strategies, “WIPO aims not only to highlight the applicability of the IP system to the attainment of countries’ national development visions, but also to support a country’s institutions and businesses in maximizing their potential for wealth creation through the establishment of vibrant IP systems”.
Mr. Tang assured that WIPO would not relent in assisting member states to develop legislative and institutional frameworks for the promotion and protection of IP and research, through capacity building.
He added that the intellectual property system “exists to create some guarantees for the invested sweat and toil of all those innovators and creators of these solutions and encourages them to continue finding new ways to continue improving lives everywhere”.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, represented by Dr. Evelyn Ngige, assured all stakeholders in the IP sector that the Ministry would continue to provide the necessary institutional support as may be required to ensure the smooth implementation of the National IP Policy and Strategy when finally adopted for implementation.
The Industry Minister observed that the policy framework was required to strengthen the nation’s capacity to generate economically viable IP assets. “It enhances the nation’s capacity to create, protect and make strategic use of the IP systems and assets as a tool for economic growth and development”, he stated.
“The policy must ensure that IP authorities and potential users and generators such as tertiary institutions, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, chambers of commerce and industry, agro-food industry, research development and institutions and copyright owners and organisations have the technical capacity and expertise required to use the IP system for development in line with the country’s national development goals”, he stated.
Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Olorunmibe Mamora, represented by the Director, Technology Acquisition and Adaptation, Mr. Ampe Fur, pledged the commitment of the ministry to support innovations that would boost the nation’s technology and the economy.
“Furthermore, the validation of this policy will facilitate the emergence of a strong and virile IP ecosystem that is capable of energising national economic diversification and growth. It will also serve as a strong tool for advocacy and sensitisation of the Nigerian research and innovation community on the inherent economic potentials of IP and its exploitation”, he stated.
Director-General of NCC, Dr. John O. Asein, in an interview, remarked that the objective of the policy and strategy was to bring Nigerian IP laws in line with global standard while ensuring that IP was able to interface with all the sectors, including the micro, small and medium scale enterprises, as well as promoting intellectual property knowledge amongst users.
Among national and international participants drawn from the private and public sector stakeholders, were Nigeria’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative at the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, Ambassador Richards Adejola, represented by Mr. Akindeji ……. of the Permanent Mission in Geneva; heads all collaborating IP agencies as follows Dr. Asein, DG NCC; Dr. Ibrahim Dan Azumi, Director-General, NOTAP, represented by Dr. Ephraim Okejiri. Others include the Chief Registrar, Commercial Law Department of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Mrs. Stella Ezenduka; and the Registrar of Trademarks, Federal Ministry of Industry, Dr. Shafiu Adamu Yauri.
Vincent A. Oyefeso
Director, Public Affairs