Nigeria, a sovereign country located on the western coast of Africa, is the most populous nation with the largest economy in the continent. It also has a fast-growing services sector with a rapidly increasing need for consumer goods. Without any second thoughts, all these factors do make Trademark Registration a crucial aspect in the nation.
In Nigeria, the Trade Marks Act, Cap T 13, the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 (“TMA”), and the Trademark Regulations 1990, form the legal basis of trademark registration and protection. The Act defines a trademark that is capable of identifying and distinguishing the source of the goods of one company or individual from those of others. A trademark may include a label, name, brand, device, heading, letter, word, signature, numeral, or any combination of these elements. When it comes to trademark registration, the Nigerian Trademark Law classifies goods into thirty-four (34) international classes. In Nigeria, multi-class Trademark Applications are not allowed; therefore, a separate application needs to be filed for registration in each of these classes. Also, unlike other jurisdictions, ‘USE’ is not a requirement for the registration of trademarks in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, the Trademarks, Patents, and Designs Registry (under the Commercial Law Department of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment) is the concerned trademark authority that governs and deals with the mechanism of trademark registration. The trademark application must be filed by the proprietor or an agent with the exception in the scenario of a foreign proprietor where a local agent must be hired. Except for the bureaucratic delays at the Registry, the time frame to complete the registration procedure is usually 12 to 18 months.
Trademark registration in Nigeria gives an owner the exclusive rights to the registered trademark corresponding to the specific goods or classes of goods in which it was originally registered. If a person or company uses the same trademark or any other mark similar or identical to it, which is likely to deceive or confuse the public, then it becomes a case of Trademark Infringement.
TRADEMARK REGISTRATION PROCEDURE IN NIGERIA
- TRADEMARK SEARCH – Before filing the trademark application, it is highly advisable to perform adequate trademark searches and determine the availability of the proposed trademark.
- REQUIREMENTS – The following documents and details are required to go ahead with trademark registration in Nigeria:
- Details of the applicant or proprietor, including name, nationality
- Well-defined representation of the proposed trademark
- Class and specification of goods or services for which the proposed trademark is to be registered
- Power of Attorney (POA) duly signed by the applicant, and where the applicant is a body corporate, by an officer who is authorized to do the same. Note – No legislation or notarization of this document is required.
- TRADEMARK APPLICATION FILING – Once all the details in the trademark application have been filled and the same is submitted along with the required documents, the Registrar shall issue an Acknowledgement Form, which confirms the receipt of the trademark application by the Registry. Also, a temporary number is allocated to the pending trademark registration.
- EXAMINATION – The Registrar then examines the proposed trademark to ensure that there is no already existing conflicting trademark, which may preclude its registration. The examination process shall also extend to whether the mark is deceptive, distinctive, or scandalous in any way or not. The proposed trademark must not contain prohibited words, names of single chemical substances, national flag, Arms of Nigeria or state, names of cities, towns, places, and societies, names of living persons or persons recently dead (except with permission).
If the Registrar gets satisfied with the proposed trademark, he or she shall issue an Acceptance Form, which is generally issued within three (03) weeks after the issuance of the Acknowledgment Form. In the other scenario, a Refusal Form will be issued. In the case of acceptance, the application will be published in the Trademarks Journal to notify any interested party that may have an objection to the said trademark registration.
- OPPOSITION – Any interested party may initiate the opposition proceedings by giving a notice of opposition within two (02) months of the publication of the proposed trademark in the Trademarks Journal. It is imperative to make a point of the fact that this period is non-extendible. The hearing of the opposition takes place before the Registrar, who shall take the decision after listening to both the parties and considering all the evidence in the matter. Additionally, the decision of the Registrar in this matter may be appealed to the Federal High Court.
- REGISTRATION – If no opposition proceedings are initiated against the proposed trademark or the oppositions are resolved well in favor of the applicant – the Registrar shall issue the Certificate of Registration to the applicant.
TRADEMARK PROTECTION AND RENEWAL TERM IN NIGERIA
In Nigeria, trademarks are registered for an initial period of seven (07) years starting from the date of the application, which can be further renewed indefinitely for periods of fourteen (14) years.