The Intersection between Intellectual Property protection and the Anti-Hate Speech Bill

The Intersection between Intellectual Property protection and the Anti-Hate Speech Bill

The debate about the Anti-Hate speech bill is one of the most controversial topics in Nigeria in recent times. The bill, which has garnered a lot of negative criticisms due to its provisions which seek to put a limit on the fundamental freedom of expression as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution has been shelved again for the second time within a year as at November 2019. The backlash essentially sprouts from the restriction that would be placed on the freedom of the Nigerian populace to express their opinions from the fear that such an exercise might be deemed hateful by some people. The bill is also believed to be a means of clamping down on the propagation of ideas, opinions and information, thereby affecting the rights of citizens to enjoy the freedom to produce, protect and distribute intellectual works such as literature, paintings, music amongst others. From the lens of an Intellectual Property Rights enthusiast, here are the intersection between Intellectual Property protection and the Anti-Hate Speech bill.

To start with, the bill defines hate speech as when a person “uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provided, distributes and/or directs the performance of any material, written and or visual which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or person from such an ethnic group in Nigeria”. With this definition in mind, it can be derived that the bill becomes contradictory to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which provides in section 39(10) that, “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”.

In essence, the bill will clamp down on the freedom of people to express, protect and distribute their ideas as a seemingly innocent work by a Yoruba author who innocently writes about his opinion on the perceived Igbos’ love for money might land such author a jail term if such work is reported for hate. With the fear of prosecution in mind, the populace will fear expressing ideas that may be deemed hateful and thus put a restraint on how people express themselves. This will consecutively affect the world of intellectual property rights as works that have been criminalised cannot be protected under the same judicial system. The copyright of holders would be forfeited and trademarking a name, logo or motto that can be tagged as festering hate will become difficult, thereby leaving such work open for exploitation.

Apart from hindering intellectual property rights owners and holders from enjoying their works, the anti-hate speech bill, through its provisions also seek to make criminals out of those intellectual property rights holders. The situation becomes dicey in the court of law as the words of the bill are ambiguous and open to several meanings. This confers the power on the court to determine what constitutes “threatening, abusive or insulting” material as well as the extent to which such person would be punished if found guilty; bearing in mind that the severity of punishment under the bill range from fines of up to ₦10 million to life imprisonment and death by hanging for works that cause the death of another.

At this point, it is pertinent that the pros and cons of this bill are carefully examined before the bill is passed into law as it can be used as an instrument of witch-hunting and persecution. Section 5(2) of the bill allows for the perception of the person harassed to be factored into the case while determining whether conduct is offensive. This subjectivity among other examples sprinkled throughout the bill is too dangerous for a bill that seeks to limit a fundamental aspect of human lives; freedom of expression.

Moreover, apart from imposing a restraint on the right to express ones’ self, the anti-hate speech bill will also affect some other fundamental human rights which are closely knitted with intellectual property rights such as the right to private and family life as enshrined in section 37 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which states, “the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected”. The anti-hate speech bill will infringe on such right as the correspondence of ideas between two individuals, say an author and an editor or publisher, might be used as evidence against the parties if such idea(s) is reported as hate speech.

Thus, the anti-hate speech bill is a potentially dangerous tool against the protection of intellectual property rights as well as a likely instrument of terrorism against critics and opponents of government as it is a normal occurrence in Nigeria to see people pen down articles or make cartoons/animations to express their grievances against the government. Such instances include works decrying the actions of the government appointing people from a section of the country to occupy top positions in the administration of the country. It also includes works produced to condemn the ills of an ethnic group or religious sect against other groups in the country. Such group or sect could report the creator of such work at the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech and institute an action against a copyrighted work.


On another note, the bill could serve a positive purpose as it would ensure that people do not misuse the power of the pen and other means of information communication to persecute other people and spread hate. The provision of the bill will ensure that intellectual works are scrutinised before the creator of such could protect and benefit from a piece that can be harmful to others. This is, however, a double-edged sword as there is the possibility of a more strenuous means of registering intellectual properties as such works have to be checked against hate speech and more.


In conclusion, the essence of the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill (the anti-hate speech bill) is questionable primarily on the basis that the bill has no provision to solve any real problem in Nigeria. Also, there are several laws already in place to cater for many of the offences the bill seeks to address and these laws include the Cyber Crimes Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act. Both laws are already being used to infringe on Nigerians’ freedom of expression. A new one will only make the noose of the authorities tighter on prospective opponents; therefore, before the anti-hate speech bill is passed into law, Nigerians must ensure that all the necessaries are done such as total compliance with Article 19(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

The Author

Yusuf Aisha Olabisi is a 200 level law student of University of Ibadan. She has interest in Intellectual Property, Technology and Medical law. She enjoys all forms of art.

Intellectual Property VS. Football: Mapping out the Intersection

Intellectual Property VS. Football: Mapping out the Intersection

Seven years ago, a classmate went home with a badly torn shirt because he called me the son of a goat. Fast forward to 2020, everyone is struggling to outclass contemporaries, to be called GOATS. Did I hear you say irony? Indeed! The debate on who’s who among footballers is way amusing. Today, I descend into the arena, with my Greatest of All Time. His name is… Ronaldo.

Photo Credit: The Sun

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira! Sorry to burst your bubbles if that sounded strange. You could refer to him as Ronaldinho Gaucho, for convenience purposes. Ronaldinho is famous for having won all the most important trophies a footballer can dream of, including clinching the Champions League trophy once and the Balon D’or twice. He is also a one time World Cup winner (Messi and CR7 fans cannot relate, can they?)


Beyond doubt, Ronaldinho’s life and career is a fitting topic for a class on Intellectual Property. This is notwithstanding that Messi has 76 registered trademarks including his name which was registered in 2011 – I hate to admit but Messi may be more of a Goat than his contemporaries in this regard, especially with the beards. Gosh! The blonde beards.


Coming back to our discourse, in 2004, Ronaldinho secured the trademark right to the domain www.ronaldinhogaucho.com subsequent to a WIPO decision (Disclaimer: The website ran down with Ronaldinho’s European career, sadly). During his sunshine moments, Ronaldinho was an “ambassador” for several companies including Nike, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Gatorade, and EA Sports. Particularly, in 2006, he earned over $19million from endorsements only. For this Soccer-Intellectual Property class, we will refer to such deals as Branding, an important aspect of trademarks.


Moving forward, Ronaldinho’s skills as a footballer cannot and should not be overlooked, today nor in centuries to come. Most notable of the skills traceable to him is The Ronaldinho Gaucho Elastico aka Snakebite (Entertain yourself a little with a snippet of Ronaldinho performing the Elastico in a world-class style: https://youtu.be/w3Wptt0v29w/). While there are claims that the skill may also be traced to Rivelino and Zidane, Ronaldinho popularized the skill. The question now is, can the skill be registered as intellectual property in favour of Ronaldinho, Zidane or Rivelino? Or to broaden the scope, can a soccer skill be registered in favour of its inventor?


For the records, intellectual property rights popularly include copyrights, patents, trade secrets and trademarks. Copyrights and patents are undisputedly out of the discourse seeing they protect only literary/artistic work and technological inventions respectively. Trade secrets too! The snake bite is all over YouTube and can be watched every weekend on streets and mini-stadia in Lagos so it does not rank as a business secret. Does that mean they can be trademarked?
Not exactly!


A trademark is any sign, word, design, letter(s), number(s) or shape that may be presented graphically and which distinguishes a good or service from another. This means that an application to register the move as a graphically presented logo will most likely be approved. David Beckham had years ago trademarked his famous Free kick move as a logo.


However, such a move cannot be registered as a skill. This is hinged on the failure of the skill to fulfill the conditions for a trademark: it must be graphically presentable, distinguishable, descriptive and non-derogatory. Moreover, “trade marking” the skill will give the originator the right to use it exclusively. This, you know, is not good for the football we love.


On a final note, skills may be used by any footballer anywhere and while they are necessarily a product of talent, they cannot be protected from exploitation; at the very best, moral rights in terms of ascribing the skill to its originator. On the flip side, name initials and jersey numbers like CR7, NJR can and have been trademarked. Graphically represented Celebration styles can also be protected and leading this trend is Jesse Lingard with his JLINGZ celebration style. These and many more tell us that the aim of IP in football is to serve as a medium for expansion and not unnecessary restriction.

Halftime whistle blows…

Written By: Olamilekan Adebanjo

A case for Intellectual Property Rights in the Internet of Things

A case for Intellectual Property Rights in the Internet of Things

Photo Credit: Towards Data Science

The Internet of Things refers to the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. A common example of an Internet of Things is an arrangement of smart lightening, smart speakers as well as smart doorbells that all communicate with each other in order to perform functions automatically with little or no human effort. It is called the internet of things because it has the ability transfer data over a network with zero human input. An Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem consists of web enabled smart devices that use embedded processors, send and act on the data they acquire from their environments. Now, this entire process involves a cluster of intellectual properties that span from the devices and their designs to the computing software embedded in them. IoT has been rightly described as the next step in the evolution of the internet, well, it probably also follows to describe it as the next step in development of intellectual property law, considering the complexities and challenges it brings to intellectual property as we know it today.

Photo Credit: Modaq


The IoT industry is still very much in the early phase, more so in Nigeria. And just like every budding industry that shows promise, IoT attracts quite a number of patent applications from companies trying to secure a cut in the industry and this causes a problem. You see, in order to successfully operate with other systems, IoT devices from different manufacturers would have to be able to work together using standardized technology (interoperability). With several competitors trying to patent this technology, there is bound to be clash of patents making things quite messy and most likely hampering the growth of IoT. As such, the need to maintain cohabitation between Intellectual Property rights Protection and interoperability is a major concern for the IoT industry.


Furthermore, IoT devices as a matter of necessity must capture data in order to carry out their functions, and this data is often enormous and managed by databases. The organizational structure of these databases can typically be protected through copyright in Nigeria, to the extent that they are original. The content of the database can also be protected through the database sui generis right awarded to the database maker (that is, the person who shows that there has been qualitatively and/or quantitatively a substantial investment in either the obtaining verification or presentation of the content). The data sui generis right is however not recognized in Nigeria and therefore cannot be enjoyed.


The software in an IoT device is also an object of intellectual property protection and this can be done through copyrights; copyright here protects the exact codes used in making a software program to ensure that they are not imitated. However, copyright is a narrow protection in terms of software as it will not suffice as sufficient protection if an entirely different code is used to make a software that performs the exact same function the protected software was designed to perform. As such, in some cases, a software patent might be considered a better option as it protects the utility of the said software.


In addition, if anything has been learnt from the smartphone industry, it is the importance of design protection. Moving away from the functionality of IoT devices, their appearances are also intellectual properties of great importance to their various brands. Thus, the overall physical appearances of these devices can be protected through the use of design patents.


Finally, technology keeps developing at a fast pace and in order to keep up, intellectual property laws must be flexible enough to match this development. It is thus necessary that IP law in Nigeria is constantly reviewed in order to avoid the inapplicability of laws to developing IP issues as can be seen in the case of the IoT industry.

Written by: Victor Fabarebo (Research team)

IP Trends

IP Trends

The IP sector is heavily related with other sectors such as Technology and Economy, which are all sectors that are not static and fast paced. Probably as a result of these affiliations or due to the fact that IP itself is based on innovations, the world of IP constantly changing. So as an IP enthusiast, you need to keep abreast of what is going on in the sector. I am going to be telling you about 5 things I feel you should be aware of right now in this fast paced world.

1)E-commerce as a solution to counterfeits: Counterfeits are the worst! Just bad business to be honest. I feel like every established brand’s worst nightmare is a counterfeit product making use of their brand and flooding the market with these counterfeit goods. Not only does it destroy goodwill, it also drives down the price of the product. How? By flooding. This is a situation whereby the supply of goods is more than its demand and at lower costs too.

So what are we doing about counterfeits? I mean, they really are a menace. It seems now that e-commerce is proving to be a very good and feasible solution to counterfeiting problems. We now have brands and e-commerce platforms working together to prevent the sale of counterfeit goods. Amazon, for instance, has created a way to remove counterfeits of a registered trademark globally in seconds! That’s just amazing!! It is hoped that this will be replicated in a physical market.

2) China is re-branding its image: We know what we all think when we see a product that reads ‘Made in China’: that it’s most probably something counterfeit or sub-standard. Certainly, over a long period of time, this has been the case. China is very well known for exporting products that violate the IPR’s of other parties. And up until recently they still faced heavy sanctions from the Trump-led Administration.


However, you should know that China has heavily invested in and is constantly developing its IP infrastructure, which is very laudable as it is one of the largest markets in the world. The country now has up to three specialist IP courts and has developed a customs system that prevents the exportation of counterfeit goods. So go ahead, don’t be scared to buy that ‘made in China’ product.

3) Commercial Licensing is the future in Tech: Early in the year, it was a scramble for wireless technology and why not? Wireless Tech is what we all want. Nobody wants to have to sit next to a socket for three hours just because they want to charge their phones. Companies were in a rat-race to develop and patent new wireless tech. There was talk of 5G wireless networks, and no doubt in better climes, people already use some of this tech.


We do however need to take a step back and re-focus. Of course patents are good and nice, but the goal is not to create a monopoly. What patents do are that they are meant to serve as a form of incentive to innovators. We still need to aim at providing a free market where all players can operate. Imagine an ocean where 70% of the ships are crewless and transporting cargo. It would be most unfair if all of these ships are produced by the same company just because that company is the only one with rights to make use of the technology.


Commercial licensing still provides revenue for the innovator. In fact, there are now companies that do not produce anything but just develop new innovations and license them out. Encourage licensing without any form of bias today!

4) Block chain: Everyone is talking about blockchain. It’s the perfect way to store digital information. Blockchain could store information about copyrights telling you when it was created, and who the creator is. And so you’re not hindered from using a work because you’re not sure if it still enjoys copyright protection or not. And also, moral rights of an author are forever protected.


A blockchain also helps performance rights agencies secure their clients royalties because the blockchain records every time the work of that client is played and they can easily get paid with a smart contract.

5) Pursue a risk-free approach: Particularly for IP counsels, do not heavily depend on litigation, make sure your IP is well protected and due diligence before any acquisition or registration of IP is very important. Try as much as possible to avoid litigation or any action that could bring about disputes. You sure don’t want to be a victim of global turbulence.

Written By: Joshua Solomon(Research Team)

images (20)

Tidbits on Patents

Tidbits on Patents

Patents are the part of intellectual property law which protect inventions and innovation. They grant exclusive rights to an invention to the owner of the patent, as a means of promoting human innovation.

Applying to critical areas like medical innovations, the issue of patents is a delicate one. It has been recorded that in the last three decades, medical technologies have improved the treatment of various diseases like HIV, that were previously ‘untreatable’. As a result of the delicate nature of the subject, policy makers have set certain criteria to be met for an invention to be regarded as patentable, in order to truly protect and promote innovation.

It is generally accepted that for an invention to be patentable, firstly, it must be novel. It must be a new innovation, different from whatever might have been before it. In recent times, there has been a rise in devices using wireless charging technology. In 2015, Qualcomm Technology Inc. patented it’s innovation that eliminated an obstacle facing wireless power, as its wireless charging technology for the first time ever was able to work with metal devices.

It is also required that for an innovation to be patented it must be Inventive. Sometimes referred to as non-obvious, it means that it must be a leap forward from whatever was already in existence, being born out of creativity or research. In December 2018, Apple was granted a patent for their development of devices that could transfer power to other devices wirelessly. This was a remarkable advancement from the existing wireless charging technology. Furthermore, for an invention to be patentable, it must be Industrially Applicable, to put it simpler, it must be useful. It is necessary that every patented invention should actually have specific use, solving a particular problem. A common example of an invention that wouldn’t meet this criterion is a perpetual motion machine, and such cannot be patented because it can’t work, hence lacks utility.

On a final note, it has become necessary for there to be regulations guiding issues like patents, because for there to a constant flow of innovation in a society, then rights to the innovation must be protected.

Written By: Oluwasegun Samuel (Research Team)

Screenshot_20191202-153810

EUROPEAN UNION DIRECTIVE ON COPYRIGHT IN THE DIGITAL SINGLE MARKET

EUROPEAN UNION DIRECTIVE ON COPYRIGHT IN THE DIGITAL SINGLE MARKET


Heard about the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market?
No? Alright, let’s take a stroll.
You see, one of the biggest news in copyright so far in 2019 is the “European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market”. This law has gained serious traction, especially due to some controversial changes it proposes. The parts that have generated the most buzz are Article 11, which has been dubbed “the link tax” and Article 13, which is also known as “the meme ban”.


Essentially, Article 11 is essentially placing a restriction on how news aggregator sites such as Google News, Yahoo and Bing can publish articles on their websites. It requires such websites to pay publishers for using snippets of their articles on their platforms. In response, Google released a screenshot of what search results will look like when the laws come into place. The picture depicts a ghostly webpage with only links displayed. This is the option tendered by Google in order to avoid paying all the companies and individuals who own contents uploaded on their website for their intellectual properties. This law however, contains an exception for “legitimate private and non-commercial use of press publications by individual users”.


Article 13 requires online platforms such as Facebook, Google and YouTube to filter or remove copyrighted materials from their websites. It seems to be the most controversial, generating negative responses and severe oppositions from individuals, States and companies especially American companies YouTube and Google who have spoken out vehemently on how the new laws will affect the users of their websites. YouTube stated that they will have to remove some content that have already been up for years and block new ones that do not pass their content ID. The content ID is a mechanism already in place to prevent YouTubers from infringing on the rights of owners who had already copyrighted their properties. However, with the new laws in place, contents such as music video reactions, reviews, criticisms and video games may be affected as the algorithms are prone to mistakes. It may not recognize what has been copyrighted as a product of effort spent on existing content from the original content, which will make the use of the website cumbersome and is likely to affect the use of the website.


Finally, the problem with this law is that it will not just affect Europeans but the entire world due to the interconnectivity of the global world. Contents uploaded in European countries where the directive has been ratified into law will be subjected to the dictates of the provisions of the directive which will in turn affect consumers who can be from any parts of the world. Presently, there is no clear cut way to apply this law and we all might have to see how a court case or two flesh up the application of the laws.

Yusuf Aishat

Research Team

Screenshot_20191202-150336

IP Valuation

IP Valuation

IP Valuation

IP Valuation right? Let’s see how it works

Due to the indispensability of intangible assets to companies, the valuation of IP assets remains quintessential. The value of IP assets which generally comprise of copyrights, trademarks, industrial designs, patents and trade secrets can be determined by direct exploitation via use, sale, transfer or license, or non-exploitation. IP assets fall under the category of intangible assets being the creation of human intellect or imagination. In the context of IP valuation, there must be the right of exclusive use and control in generating economic and financial benefits.


IP valuation refers to the process of determining the monetary or financial value of a particular IP asset. However, there are prerequisites for undertaking IP valuation some of which include distinct identification, legal transferability inter alia. It is pertinent to add here that there are such factors influencing IP valuation such as premise and standard of value, nature and strength of IP asset, time of valuation, method of IP valuation, purpose of valuation, reliable data, infringement, legal and compliance factors.
Strictu sensu, there are two effective methods of IP valuation, namely; market and income methods. While the former is premised on comparison with the actual price paid for a corresponding IP asset under comparable circumstances, the latter which is mostly used refers to the potential amount of income of an IP asset compared to its current value.
In business, IP valuation transcends the boundaries of mere estimation of intangible assets, as it influences companies’ human capital, legal and financial operations vis-à-vis Research and Development (R&D) prospects. Furthermore, IP valuation is vital to the formulation of an apt business strategy especially in a competitive market. In simple terms, companies with strong IP assets have the tendency to attract high investment and are less susceptible to bankruptcy.


According to the 2017 Intangible Asset Market Value Study, intangible assets rose in value from 17% in 1975 to 84% in 2015 while tangible assets fell from 83% in 1975 to 16% in 2015 during a 20-year span. Interestingly, IPR specialists and lawyers are beginning to specialize in the business of IP valuation, thus emphasizing the growing importance of the subject matter.

Femi Alonge

Image Credit: https://smallbiztrends.com/2016/03/what-is-intellectual-property.html

References

WIPO. Module 11 – IP Valuation. Accessed via https://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/sme/en/documents/pdf/ip_panorama_11_learning_points.pdf.

Shubham B. and Neha R. India: What Is Intellectual Property Valuation? Accessed via http://www.mondaq.com/india/x/772158/Trademark/What+Is+Intellectual+Property+Valuation.

Ocean Tomo. Intangible Assessment Market Value Study. Accessed via https://www.oceantomo.com/intangible-asset-market-value-study/

Screenshot_20190827-203004~2

What Happens when there are no IP Laws(2)

What Happens When There are no IP Laws (2)

Sounds funny right? Doesn’t it?

There is a popular joke about how in Nigeria, we never adapt to the change in the name of a product even after the producers have changed the name numerous times. That is why Nigerians still call the electricity distribution companies NEPA (National Electric Power Authority) in 2019 even after PHCN had stopped existing in 2013. In fact, people are reluctant to call the popular cab service ‘Taxify’ by its new name ‘Bolt’, months after the product has changed its name. This is the power of branding and trade names. Similarly, there is a Nigerian inclination where products are named by the most popular of them e.g. all toothpastes called CloseUp, all seasonings called Maggi, all mayonnaise called Bama, all chocolate spreads called Nutella and so on.

On the other hand, there is a general world trend about being stuck to a particular brand and using nothing else but that brand. In fact, there are Twitter and Instagram wars over which brands product is the best even when the contents are in fact the same. Examples are wars between consumers of Pepsi and Coca-cola, Fanta and Mirinda, Android and Iphone, Nike and Adidas, Benz and BMW etc. In fact, a user of a particular brand would most times use it for life and never switch.

It is interesting to note that people do not fall in love with a brand overnight and a product does not become popular overnight too. In fact, companies spend millions on corporate and product advertising, product quality, employee satisfaction and company image to build and maintain their brands or label.

Intellectual property laws come in by protecting this effort and sweat through the protection called “Trademarks” or “Service marks”. These marks are words, phrases, symbols, designs, logos or marks that distinguish a product or service from another. They constitute intellectual property as they are intangible assets but valuable works of creation anyway. While you can save your money or gold in the bank, your brand logo cannot exactly be physically saved but it also important that people do nor falsely use it as theirs. Here, intellectual property comes in to ensure that no one deceptively uses your trade or service.

Now for a second, try to imagine there was no law protecting trade or service marks. Tomorrow, you can start up your fashion company called ‘Gucci’. Of course, you know there is an already existing respected brand called Gucci that sells very expensive clothes all over the world but choose to sell yours at a cheaper price in Nigeria with lower quality. On this false name representation, you get a lot of customers and sell millions of products. Few weeks later, ten other Gucci clothing stores open and sell at even cheaper prices and ridiculously poor quality. You are angry at the insult and you of course lose customers, as Nigeria being the second poverty world capital after India would most likely go for the cheaper ones. On the other hand, people who can afford the real Gucci are disappointed at the reduction in quality without realizing that they are fakes. The result is a ruined reputation for the whole Gucci brand as a whole and a drastic reduction in their profits.

It is therefore apparent that trademark laws are necessary to protect a company’s reputation, distinguish them from their competitors and maintain the company’s value. Trademark unlike other forms of IP protection do not expire as long as they remain distinct forever. Mercedes first registered as a trademark in 1900, Pepsi-Cola in 1896 and Quaker in 1895. Over a hundred years later, these brands are still recognized and respected today. Trademark laws in fact go a step further to ensure that registered brands in the same category do not use similar names to prevent consumer confusion. Thus, local fashion brands like “Nika”, “Guccy”, “Fendy” aimed at deceiving the public are guilty of infringement.

Today, trademark infringement is fraudulently on the rise with local brands in Nigeria making inferior versions of popular brands or using similar logos of popular brands. It is so difficult to distinguish original from fake that only few stores are trusted and patronized. The extent of the danger of this act goes beyond economic implications to the original companies in the case of edible products. It could in fact cause death or serious consequence to human life where infringers replace the content of edible products and fail to use care.

In conclusion, trademark protection has proven to be one of the most important form of copyright protection and without these marks distinguishing products, the result can be catastrophic. It is therefore important for local businesses to respect the service or trademarks of existing products and instead start their own brands afresh. Similarly, new companies should duly register their marks as early as possible as trademark laws protect the first in time.

AKINKUOLIE Precious

For the Research Team, IPTLCUI

Screenshot_20190816-204735~3

What Happens when there are no IP Laws(1)

What Happens When There are no IP Laws (1)

Maybe you don’t know?

When I was a kid, the kinds of movies I loved best were the 20-in-1 movies. For as low as #70, I could watch enough movies a day. When they were scratched or incomplete, I would curse the producer in pain and regret wasting my money for biscuit. It took many years for me to realize that kind of movies were pirated and that Tyler Perry, Jackie Chan and Steven Seagal movies should not all logically be in the same CDs.

Today, I belong to the Intellectual Property Club in School and I would never download a song without paying for it and almost never stream movies from illegal download sites. With literacy comes a stark reality and responsibility to never be a part of a system that kills innovation or destroy the hard work of others.

In order to understand what would happen without Intellectual Property Laws, you need to understand why these laws where created. From the word “Intellectual Property”, a plain definition could be “a work of the intellect”. Still from this word, you can decipher that it relates to what you can create in the mind. Indeed, this is true. Intellectual property laws were created to protect whatever you could innovate, discover, design or invent by your own self and with your own mind. But there is only one catch, this creation must not just be in your mind. You are expected to produce it in a fixated form and even a drawing on paper is fine.

If you are wondering why, let me explain. Three men can all create a shoe that makes you fly in their mind. They may all plan to use the same method of putting hot coal into iron shoes and applying gravity and space air etc etc. However, there is no way any of them can prove they thought it up first if they don’t have this idea properly drawn out and designed. The first to turn the thought to reality will get protected. It is therefore apparent that intellectual property laws where created by man to not only protect ownership of ideas but also give the creators an incentive to continue to create more and solve more problems.

Intellectual Property protection comes in various forms. Today’s article will consider only one and subsequent episodes of this article will attempt to rationalize the existence of other forms of IP protection. The first form is Copyright which protects artistic or literary creations like writings, drawings, music, songs etc. The word “Copyright” does not actually mean the right to copy in the literal sense as the plain interpretation of the word may seem but rather ‘the right to the copies’. That is, it protects the owner or author from the duplication of the work by someone unauthorized. It is notable that copyright does not protect ideas, theories or concepts but an original work in a tangible form.

Copyright protection is a necessity in order to prevent chaos and anarchy in our world today from my point of view. A very relatable illustration would be this article I am writing today. Imagine I woke up tomorrow morning and found another name attributed as the author of this article, I would definitely be angry. The effort, time and brain power imputed in this article would be someone else’s glory. Now let’s imagine further that Harvard saw this article and wants to give the writer a special recognition for it, the wrong person will get the credit and I may either decide never to write again or just go ahead and fight the person who stole my work. Then the society would lose one of two things – a great mind or the life of the thief.

However, thanks to Copyright laws in all countries of the world today, the moment you create your artistic or literary work in a fixed format, you are attributed ownership to it. You can sue anyone who uses it without your permission over the next 70 years and get compensated for such.

If today, you still use people’s lines without acknowledging they own it or duplicate people’s paintings as yours or use another persons’ lyrics without authorization, permission or fair use, I would just like to clearly state that you are a thief and that is stealing. You are also most likely guilty of copyright infringement and should stop taking credit for other people’s work. Forms of copyright infringement you should stop are using someone’s picture from the internet without crediting the photographer, downloading music and movie files from illegal websites, plagiarizing another’s work etc.

The easiest way to know if you are infringing is when you find legal sites to pay for a work alongside an illegal site where it is offered for free. Most likely, the book or movie or music you are trying to download was created to create profit by the owner. I recently learnt that people justify copyright infringement on the argument that the owner is most likely rich and thus would not be affected If he loses the one thousand naira for the work. My response is this, imagine a million people had this same opinion then the owner has lost a billion naira. What happens if this owner gets bankrupt – the people employed under the chain would lose their jobs. Congrats, you just made someone poor and caused unemployment.

In fact, the negative effect of copyright infringement in Nigeria as a country would now be proved in figures. In 2018, Punch Newspaper reported that Nigeria loses $3billion to piracy annually and the annual revenue from the movie industry is just about $590 million according to PWC Media and Entertainment Outlook. The facts speak for themselves.

In conclusion, if you have never heard of the word “IP”, this is an attempt to teach it in the simplest way and sensitize as many people as possible that IP Laws are a necessity and to stop belittling the effort of others starts from understanding the consequences of such action. We believe that after reading this article you would leave the league of persons that wait weeks for a movie to be leaked to download it on the internet rather than paying to see it at the movie. You really have no right to complain about the standards of Nollywood movies if you have never paid to see one. We need IP laws and we need you to stop breaking them.

Precious AKINKUOLIE

For Research Team, IPTLCUI

Picture Credit: Shutterstock

Does Intellectual Property law protect robots?

Does Intellectual Property Protect Robots?

Want to know a secret?

About seven decades ago, we considered only humans as possessing specific forms of higher intelligence. However, the narrative has changed as machines now possess the ability to communicate in decipherable speech. These machines make decisions without human intervention, express emotions, compose and sing songs and process much more information than humans. This ability is generally regarded as Artificial Intelligence (AI). Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are relatable examples of AI.

Robots are proliferating as a major form of AI. Accordingly, the International Data Corporation (IDC) revealed that robots import all over has increased from 100,000 in 2000 to 250,000 in 2015. The share of jobs requiring AI has also increased by a mind-blowing 450% since 2013 as shown by Adobe. Moreover, according to Juniper Research, global spending on AI is also estimated to grow from $2 billion in 2018 to $7.3 billion in 2022.

Given the ingenuity and capital that characterizes the production of AI in its entirety, the protection of these inventions by relevant Intellectual Property laws are non-negotiable. These protective laws are twofold namely: laws protecting AI invention and production of Artificially Intelligent machines on one hand and the protection of possible creative works, ideas and inventions that may be put forward by AI machines on the other hand.

The Intersection of AI and IP: Patents, Trade Secrets, Industrial Designs and Copyrights

Robots, more or less, are inventions and as such their production are protected under IP laws. It is noteworthy that in protecting their financial and intellectual interests, robotics companies employ multifarious Intellectual property approaches. Developers of robotic technology can register their distinctive technology under local patent laws. Therefore, they possess exclusive rights to the use and reinvention of the Artificially intelligent machine.

Patent protection enables the developers to get regulatory approval on one hand. On the other hand, they can secure their investment interests and invention strategy after commercialization of the machine. As stated by WIPO, this has its advantages and disadvantages.

According to WIPO, many robotics companies use patent documents to figure out latest technological developments and gain insights about competitor strategies. This invariably means that each competitor in the industry can spy on the latest inventions and the scientific methods involved in reaching such end products. While this increases competition, spying on other companies patents can also allow for altering of the processes and reverse engineering. Moreover, the United States Supreme Court decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International 573 U.S. 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014) made it evident that not all abstract technological concepts or processes are patentable.

Many robotics industries, therefore, seek a better IP instrument to protect inventions namely Trade secrets. Article 39 of the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement regard trade secrets as secret information so long as such information:
(a) is secret in the sense that it is not, as a body or in the precise configuration and assembly of its components, generally known among or readily accessible to persons within the circles that normally deal with the kind of information in question;
(b) has commercial value because it is secret; and
(c) has been subject to reasonable steps under the circumstances, by the person lawfully in control of the information, to keep it secret.

Trade secrets are preferred because they are better means of protection and are cost-effective. However, they possess their own demerits as they are susceptible to leaks by employees. Other IP instruments used to protect robotics research and development include Industrial designs that protects the shape and form of robots, computer codes and copyrights protecting software.

Does IP Protect  creative works and inventions of Robots?

The event and possibility of a robot producing independently or in conjunction with a human an invention, an idea or any intellectual property raises a bigger question. Can such intellectual property receive protection in favor of the robot?
In answering these questions, jurisdictional differences ought to be taken into account. Currently, the general trend in most nations is that inventions by robot cannot be patented. This is because only human creations are allowed to lay claim to patents under relevant IP laws. Flowing from this, an Australian court ruled in Acohs Pty Ltd v Ucorp Pty Ltd [2012] FCAFC 16 that a work generated with the intervention of a computer could not be protected by Intellectual Property law because it was produced independently of human intervention.

However, countries like Japan and Korea are making laws to make IP rights extend to robots. In New Zealand, the 1994 Copyright Act allows patent rights to extend to robots even though they considered such invention as belonging to the human owner of the robot. Arguments have been raised in support and against robots possessing IP rights to their inventions or creative works. These arguments include bolstering technological advancement and the possible disintegration of human intelligence respectively.

Finally, if Artificially Intelligent Machines are bestowed with rights to own patents for invention, will they also be liable if other intellectual properties are infringed upon? A European Parliament Resolution titled Civil Law Rules on Robotics considered this question and answered in the affirmative thus suggesting the legal personality of robots. Complexities come hand in hand with innovation and as disclosed in a 2018 article by the World Economic Forum, the fact that these questions have arisen at a point where the position of the law is yet unsettled, relevant stakeholders should prospectively consider these challenges and propose a system that efficiently and effectively provide solutions.

Adebanjo Olamilekan Olamide

For IPTLCUI Media Team