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.