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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)


Utilizing Copyright for Commercial Gain in Music(1)

Utilizing Copyright  for  Commercial Gain in Music(1)

Maybe you don’t know?

Over the years, music has proven to be a lucrative  and prosperous career path, resulting in many artistes smiling at the bank. However, in spite of the wealth attributed  to music, an artiste might lose out financially if he or she has little or no knowledge  of copyright  and how to utilize it for commercial gains.

Care to know more?

Copyright can be defined as a right granted to the author or originator of certain literary or artistic productions whereby the creation is invested for a limited period with the sole and exclusive privilege of multiplying copies of the literary or artistic works and publishing or selling them. In relation to  music,  once a song is written, recorded or produced, copyright protection begins automatically. There is no obligation to register a copyrighted work, although,  it is  advisable to do so  in order to have a strong claim if copyright infringement occurs in the future. An authentic work can be protected for a minimum of fifty years and up to seventy years in some jurisdictions.

Artistes who own copyrighted works have the right to authorize, obtain or prohibit monetary compensation  for the: reproduction, distribution, communication, adaptation and broadcasting of  such works.

Artistes can also sell or license their works for a fee known as royalties. The person whom the rights are sold to or assigned to become the new owner of the copyright.

Licensing involves the copyright owner entering into a deal with a third party, authorizing it to use the work for a specific purpose and time period. These licenses may be exclusive, involving only one party or non-exclusive, involving multiple  parties.

It is practically  impossible  for authors and performers to have a separate licensing deal with every radio or television station or other businesses to use their work. Musicians  and creators sign up and thereafter grant exclusive  licenses to collective management organisations. While these organisations act on behalf of songwriters, musicians and performers, they connect creators with those who want to use their work. They negotiate on the behalf of artistes,  receive royalties and look out for copyright infringement.

On a final note, copyright is essential to music artistes, composers and performers  who want to benefit  financially from their works.

OJO Pelumi

For the Entertainment and Fashion Division, IPTLCUI

Content Credit:


Can Dance Be Protected by Copyright?

Can Dance Be Protected by Copyright?

Ever wondered what category of copyright protects dance? Obviously, it does not fall under artistic works―definitely not musical works. Literary works? Well, let’s see.

Early this year in February, Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor who played Carlton on the TV show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” sued Take-Two and Epic Games for using his Carlton dance in their respective video games. However, the U.S. Copyright office refused to grant him copyright to the dance as a mere swaying of hips – which was the whole idea of Carlton dance – has no originality or creativity.

Like every other work under copyright, dance is underpinned by originality and creativity. Section 26 of Nigeria’s Copyright Act 2004 (under the separate category of Neighbouring Rights – dubbed related rights in some jurisdictions) protects dance as intellectual property. Particularly, in 26 (2) (a) of the same Act, dance is categorized under dramatic performance, and the copyright subsists for fifty years after the first public performance of it.

If, however, the dance steps are written down in compositions, they fall under “literary work”, particularly under “choreographic works” under Section 39 of Copyright Act. So, to the initial question, dance falls under dramatic performance when performed and under literary works when in written composition.


For the research team, IPTLCUI

One of the world's popular Trademark


Every establishment or start-up has a distinguishing mark that sets them apart and makes them stand out among a plethora of businesses. It could be a business name, logo, tag line or slogan.  For instance, both Coca Cola and Pepsi sell carbonated drinks, but when you see the red-blue-white logo, you already know it is a Pepsi product. Trademarks protect such signs, symbols and marks from being infringed, but first, they need to be registered. In Nigeria, trademarks protect only marks attached to goods and services.  However, a trademark must be registered for it to be valid.

Below is what you need to know about trademarks in Nigeria.


What Trademarks Can Be Registered?

Any mark, word, design, device, label, numerals or combinations of these which have acquired distinctiveness as used in relation to goods for the purpose of indicating a connection in the between such goods and some persons having the right either as proprietor or as registered users to use the mark.

What cannot be registered as trademarks?

  • Deceptive marks likely to mislead and misinform the public
  • Scandalous marks that are contrary to law and morality
  • Vulgar and disparaging marks
  • Names of chemical substances
  • Use of an identical or resembling trademark
  • Nigeria Coat of Arms or other symbol of government authority.

What information is needed to register a Trademark?

  • Name of marks or specimen of the mark (in case of a logo)
  • The full name and address of the applicant
  • Indication of the product classes
  • A power of attorney duly executed by the proprietor of the mark, authorizing that the mark should be registered.

How is it registered?

Run a search at the trademark office to confirm whether the mark is available, or whether it may conflict with a registered mark.

Secondly, the four documents above should be forwarded with a cover letter addressed to the Registrar of Trademarks. Here, you must indicate whether you want to regsier under part A or B. Part A is for marks that are inherently distinctive; Part B is for marks that are capable of being distinctive.

Upon filing the application, an acknowledgement letter is issued, and after 3 – 4 months, an acceptance letter will be sent after an initial examination of the mark at the Registry.

The application is then published at the Trademark Journals at the discretion of the Trademarks Registry, and where there is no opposition filed to challenge the application within the statutory period of 2 months, an application for issuance of certificate of trade mark can be made.

Where is it registered?

The relevant trademark authority is Nigerian Trade Marks, Patent and Designs Registry, under the commercial department of the Ministry of Trade and Investments.

How long does the registration take?

On average, it takes about 10 to 18 months from the time the application is filed  up to the issuance of certificate of registration.

How long does a trademark last?

In Nigeria, trademarks have an initial validity period of 7 years, but can be renewed thereafter for 14-year periods indefinitely.

IP belongs on the  business blueprint.

Why your Business Needs IP

Day after day, entrepreneurship continues to gain traction all over the world; and although it serves as a major revenue stream for some nations, many underserved nations, like Nigeria, may not be able to relate.

This is not farfetched.

The engine of entrepreneurship is creativity; that disruptive and innovation edge which stands out an entrepreneur attracts clients and customers and ultimately develops into a brand. But like every engine, where creativity is not lubricated, it would tire out and knock down.

Apparently, there are many promising but shortlived businesses spread like mushroom all over the globe without a source of revenue for them, or worse, without effective machinery to protect their creativity or the creative aspects of their businesses.  

This is where Intellectual Property (IP) comes in as the protections afforded by intellectual property help startups to protect and profit off their inventions, trademarks, copyright, and designs.

Today, Nike is the biggest sports sponsor, but it all started as far back as the early 1960s. Bill Bowerman, University of Oregon’s running coach and his pupil Phil Knight invented the Waffle Trainer and protected it under patent and trademarks, and saw it grow into the Nike brand, after decades of aggressive IP strategies which are addressed below.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) suggested four strategies of  maximizing P viz;

Acquisition of IP

Exploitation of IP

Monitoring of IP

Enforcement of IP

1. Acquisition of IP:  This involves taking deliberate steps to acquire IP. IP protections include copyright and related rights, trademarks, patents, and industrial designs. For instance, if your product is a written, literary or artistic work such as books, photographs, videos, software codes, manuals, the IP to acquire is copyright, and if your product (or service) is to performed or broadcast, the IP to acquire is related rights. If it is an invention that is new, novel and capable of industrial application, you should acquire a patent. The gist is to identify the relevant IP and register them with the relevant authorities which may be local or international.

2. Exploitation of IP: Here, you are essentially profiting off your intellectual property assets via licencing your products or selling your IP rights to other companies, merchandising or franchising your brand to other retailers, and using the existence of IP to boost clientele or access to finance. For instance, KFC is a leading world franchisor, and it continues to expand by licensing its intellectual property, use of its business model, brand, and rights to sell its branded products and services to many franchisees, which is why you can find KFC almost anywhere in the world.

3. Monitoring of IP: This concerns putting such machinery in place to monitor any infringements of IP, breach of IP agreements as well as ensuring you do not infringe on others’ IP rights. Here, you may employ a lawyer or IP monitoring services to keep track of infringement. For instance, HBO employed IP Echleon to track down pirates and individuals involved in infringement on its broadcast rights.

Key to Growth

4. Enforcement of IP: This consists in reporting cases of IP infringement to relevant authorities while also leveraging them through out of court settlements, for instance. Issuance of Cease and Desist letters, copyright infringement notices via Internet Service Providers, charging after-use license fee for copyright infringements, the tort of passing off etc, are means of enforcing IP.

When all these strategies have been put to use, you would have developed your brand and your engine would have plenty of oil to lubricate it to last for a long time.

Because IP is the new oil.

Olanrewaju Moses.


World Fashion Law Day

Logos used by fashion brands such as Givenchy, Michael v Kors, D&G, Armani are all trademarks protected by law. The company can sue a person(natural or legal) that imitates such trademarks or passes it off as theirs. In 2008, Christian Louboutin acquired trademark rights in the United States over the bright-red lacquered sole featured in much of the footwear he produces. In 2011, when French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) released its monochrome footwear collection in a range of colours, including red, Louboutin filed a lawsuit against YSL claiming infringement of his so-called red-sole trademark.

In recent years, intellectual property (IP) rights have played a pivotal role in the growth of the highly competitive global fashion industry, which generates more than USD 2 trillion per year.

Below are few facts you should know about Fashion Law

  1. the law protects the sketches and drawings of a fashion designer or illustrator through the instrument of Intellectual property known as Copyright. A fashion designer/illustrator can sue anyone who steals or imitates the design and uses it to reproduce a cloth if he/she can prove that the design or sketch is his/hers, provided it has been put down(sketched or drawn).
  2. Fashion design piracy involves the unauthorized copying of original fashion designs. And generally it falls into one of the two following categories:
    (1) Knockoffs: A knockoff is a close copy of the original fashion design, mimicking its elements, but is sold under a label different from the label of the original design. Thus, it is not sold in an attempt to pass as the original.
    (2) Counterfeits: A counterfeit is a copy of the original fashion design as well as brand logo or label of that design. Counterfeit apparel is sold as an attempt to pass off as the original product. Counterfeits may also involve piracy in fashion design besides piracy in logo or label of fashion brand.
    There are legislations that protect against such. For example, in India, The Sketch Design can be registered as artistic work under the Copyright Act 1957; Logo Designs can be protected under the Trademarks Act, 1999 where the logo is part of the design. For instance, Louis Vuitton handbag covered with a repeating pattern of the brand’s well-known LV mark.
  3. The law provides protection for well-known marks in order to prevent malicious people to benefit from their work, even if it has not been registered yet, however, it has gained popularity due to usage over a long period of time.
  4. Fashion Law protects fashion brands through the registration of trademarks to prevent passing off and economic loss on the part of the business owners.
  5. Fashion Law also helps negotiate contracts in the modelling business and obligations of parties involved.
  6. Fashion law and Intellectual Property globally generates Two trillion dollars per year.

  7. Hope you enjoyed reading.
Invention iptlc

IP Issues attached to Inventions

Inventions range from simply creating a bottle opener to constructing a vehicle that runs on water. With the advancement of technology and access to information, new ideas drop in people’s minds daily. Fortunately, IP rights do not protect ideas but the expression of ideas and thus, the creators and not the “imaginators” get the protection IP offers.
Expression of ideas entails actually creating a work using sufficient skill and effort or transforming it from the intellect to a tangible form such as a photograph, painting, song, design etc.

With different ideas flying about, it is important to protect your invention first to enable you exclusive rights to them as IP protects the first to register or apply for protection. Here are three ways you can protect your invention under Intellectual property:

  1. Patent your invention – if your invention is patent-able, it is important to apply for one as early as possible. A patent simply gives its owner the right to exclude others from making use of the work or selling their invention for 20 years. It protects processes, methods and inventions and the requirements for a patent include novelty, utility (being capable of use or application) and inventiveness. Such application is filed at the Patent Registry of a country and protection is territorial only.
  2. Trade Secrets protections – Patents are in fact published and involve a disclosure of your information in exchange for a 20 years protection. An alternative is however trade secrets which is not registered and has no public records. These protections are used for items that are unique and give the owner a competitive advantage such as the famous Coca-Cola recipe.
  3. Use Non-Disclosure Agreements – there is no doubt that in the process of pitching your invention or getting customers, there may be the need to disclose certain information about your invention. A confidentiality agreement would however place an obligation on persons you have business relationship with including customers to preclude them from using or sharing it.

Dear big thinker, protecting your invention, no matter how small it is, is important because it gives you a competitive advantage and exclusive right to use your innovation. This prevents copycats from stealing your hardwork and also brings financial gain in the form of licensing and sales agreement. It is also important to not publish your idea on the internet, in an article, during a presentation etc before filing a patent has it may prevent you from getting it.


Five things you should consider when selecting a logo

Five things you should consider when selecting a logo

Asides business names, logos are one distinguishing elements or symbols for brands and businesses. For instance, the three bars and trefoil logo simply point to “Adidas” and the swoosh screams “Nike” anywhere. The bitten Apple indicates an “Apple” product and five connected rings simply says “Olympics”.

Now imagine seeing a footwear with two black stripes, and thinking it is an Adidas product you end up paying the standard price and get home to realize it is not an Adidas footwear. This simply depicts that logos personalize brands and thus needs intellectual property protection to prevent customers from being misled by similar and non-distinctive logos. This protection comes in form of “Trademarks” and in fact a trademark infringement suit can be quite messy and cost you a lot of money.

Here are five tips you should consider before selecting that logo for your company and brand.

Search thoroughly
  1. Carry out an extensive trademark search – Trademarked logos are usually registered and it is wise to check around if any similar logo is in use or can be confused with yours.
  2. Create an original work – The basic rule is “don’t copy”. Rather than copying an online design, it is safer to create and design your own logo from scratch.
  3. Get ownership from the designer – If you employ a logo creating company or designer to create your brand logo, be aware that there are legalities involved. State clearly in your agreement that the designer does not have the right to reuse the logo or promote it for their personal gain and ensure you purchase full ownership to it.
  4. Register your logo – Trademarking your logo gives you an edge over any subsequent similar symbol. But note that Trademark is geographical and you may have to register in multiple companies based on how large your brand is.
  5. Non-descriptive and distinctive – This is a requirement to register a trademark and ultimately applies to selecting logos.

Finally, we advise consulting an Intellectual property lawyer to help you register your logos and trademarks.

Wedding Photo Iptlc

IP TITBIT: Before you take that Wedding Shoot

Lots of trends come and go. Dress trends, hairstyles trends, fashion trends and even Twitter trends simply appear and disappear one random morning with another taking their place.

Yet, one major trend has existed right from the day it became an innovation and today it still remains the “thing” despite the existence of mobile phones with awesome cameras. This is the photo-shoot trend.
During birthdays, convocations, matriculations, burials, engagements, and wedding events, there’s always a phone call to a photographer for a photo-shoot to keep memories of these events.

Interestingly many people do not consider the Intellectual Property implications of a simple photo-shoot until unforeseen events comes up and they realize they are on the wrong side of the copyright law. Imagine waking up to see your wedding shoot pictures on the cover of an ad without your permission, your curves have been highly edited and you look ridiculous and worse, this personal picture has been distributed all over the internet. Or you want a picture without your photographer’s signature or watermark on it and he refuses claiming he owns them. You are shocked because you are the model and you paid for those pictures.

Here are five Copyright matters you need to understand and settle in your agreement with your photographer before you take that wedding shoot.

  1. Assignment of copyright– Copyright law gives the photographer full right to ownership of your photos and control over how they are used. Surprising right? If you do not want this, clearly specify in your agreement that copyright should be assigned to you by the photographer for service rendered or work done.
  2. Reproduction Clause – Copyright vested in your photographer means he has the right to reproduce and publish your photos. Based on this he/she can use them on their website and freely use them in their advertising or share them on their social media channels. If you’re uncomfortable with this, your agreement should state that the photographer is not allowed to use your photograph in any form including reproducing for commercial and personal use without prior consent. This may however cost more.
  3. Alteration Consent – Despite being the picture model, the photographer is protected from having his work distorted or treated in a way that is prejudicial to his honour or reputation. This means you cannot edit, amend or alter the pictures without permission from your photographer.
  4. Watermark/Signature – Unless prior specified and agreed to the contrary, the photographer enjoys the right to watermark his pictures of you with his brand name or logo. You cannot erase or edit out this watermark yourself as you’ll be infringing on his Copyright but can specify a non-watermark agreement in your contract before the shoot.
  5. What then did I pay for? – Your payment to your photographer simply gives you a license to use them for personal and private use. Commercial use of the pictures is strictly for the photographer.

Note that you can make a contrary agreement with your photographer but may be required to pay more. But these are the rules in the absence of a clear contract.


IP TITBIT – Lionheart by Genevieve Nnaji

Do you know that the movie Lionheart by Genevieve Nnaji was allegedly sold to Netflix for a whopping $3.8 million dollars?.
“Lionheart” marks Genevieve’s directorial debut and the first Netflix original film from Nigeria.

The acquisition of Lionheart’s copyright by Netflix vests in them the license to publish and reproduce the movie on their online streaming platform.

Now for a second you might have assumed that Genevieve Nnaji is now a proud owner of $3.8mil but this is actually not that straightforward.

Under the copyright law, there can be more than one persons who may have contributed to the creation of a work and thus own it. It is often said that a copyright is “infinitely divisible.”

Thus any profit is to be shared among all the owners and in determining their share, they have to refer to the Chain of Title agreement.

Basically, in the film industry, the phrase “chain of title” refers to the series of documents or agreements that prove the ownership right of the entire movie or film.

Knowing fully well that Copyright provides the owner with the exclusive right to reproduce, communicate, make adaptions and enter into rental arrangements in respect of the work, it is important to note that the protection can subsist in each creative contribution to the movie. This means that there are often some overlapping owners or authors of copyright to which exclusive rights exist.

Thus in Lionheart, copyright subsists in the soundtracks or music playing in the background, story line of the film by the screenplay writers, the director or producer who crafted the movie together, the editor etc.

IP BITS…ONE TITBIT a week, watch out for the next episode.