Inventors across the world have called for the protection of their intellectual property rights to the protection of the sale and acquisition of commercial proceeds from their inventions. The standard practice is to have inventions and creations protected from copy or further development for a certain period by any other person, other than the inventor.
Patents are a branch of intellectual property that seeks to protect the rights of an invention or a creation by an individual or a group of individuals. Inventors leverage the provisions of countries’ patent laws to register their inventions as a patent to their names. In Nigeria, the Patents and Design Act provides for the steps to registering patents and the status of inventions patented in other countries.
How Patents are registered in Nigeria
The Patents and Design Act (the Act) provides accreditation to professionals and corporate bodies for the registration of patents in Nigeria. Inventors cannot access the Nigerian patent registration body directly, they’ll have to seek the representation of accredited registration persons or bodies to apply for the patent of their inventions.
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is responsible for the registration of patents in Nigeria; the Ministry transfers this duty to the Trademarks, Patents and Design Registry, Commercial Law Department (the Department), a department within and created by the Ministry. The Department has a Registrar to who all submissions for the registration of patents are made.
Conditions for registration of a patent in Nigeria
The Act provides certain conditions that must be followed before a patent is accepted for registration in the Department. The conditions for the registration of patents are:
The invention must have been a creation of the inventor, which is not related to any previous or existing invention. The innovation test is that an expert in the field of study of the invention to be registered must not consider the invention a remake of an already existing invention in place.
In addition, the invention must have not been accessed by the public before the registration. Nonetheless, an invention would be patented if it is a development of an already existing invention that creates a distinct functioning feature from the previous situation.
2. Not just an Intellectual theory
The invention must be able to function and/or add value to the industry. This addition of value comes in varying forms but must not be completely intellectual.
This means the invention must not be completely an intellectual scientific theory, a piece of artistic work, a computing or technology program or a mere idea.
Recommended: How to register a copyright in Nigeria
3. Public Policy
The invention must not be such that goes against the morality of the views of the public. For instance, an invention on human cloning would be against public policy and hence cannot be accepted for registration.
4. No multiple registrations
A series of multiple inventions must be registered independently. This means only one invention for each registration is allowed to be undertaken.
5. Complete information
The information relating to the full description of the invention must be stated for clarity. Every detail that itemizes the invention must be stated in the application.
Once all the Conditions for the registration of a patent are applicable, the accredited agent shall apply for registration to the Registrar of the department. The application shall be accompanied by the following :
- Name, and address of the applicant. If the applicant’s address is not within Nigeria, an address for service must be provided.
- A full and detailed description of the invention to be registered with all the necessities to distinctly identify the invention.
- Claims for the relation of the invention with other inventions or products. Nonetheless, recall that only one invention per time can be registered.
- A declaration by the inventor stating that he indeed invent the product and requesting his name be associated with it.
- When an agent submits the application, a power of attorney authorizing the agent must be submitted.
The Global protections of patents registered in Nigeria
Patents registered in Nigeria usually expire after 20 years from the date of registration. This allows the inventor to gain control of the market. After this date, other scientists and inventors can begin producing duplicates of the invention for continuous spread.
In addition, all Patent holders must pay the annual fee prescribed. This payment comes with a grace of six months from the date of the registration. Failure to pay the fees on the patent, the patent would be lost.
Inventions patented in other countries aside from Nigeria are not recognized by the Act. This means that an invention must generally be registered in Nigeria before it can be protected against adoption under the law. Nonetheless, Nigeria has entered into treaty agreements with various countries across the world.
Inventors that have registered in these countries can approach the Registrar within 12 months from the registration of the invention in the foreign country, the condition as to innovation would be dismissed and the patent registered. The Registrar would treat the application as though it was registered immediately, this is otherwise known as “foreign priority”.
Applicants for foreign priority must apply with the name of the country where the original application was made, the date the original application was made and finally the details of the person that made the registration.
The certified true copy of the original application in the previous country must be filed with the Registrar at least 3 months before the registration of the Nigerian patent. The foreign priority protects the invention as though the patent made in the original country was made in Nigeria.
Nigeria is a signatory to the following treaties: the Patent cooperation treaty, the patent law treaty, the convention establishing the world intellectual property organization (WIPO), the Paris Convention for the protection of Industrial Property, the Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the deposit of microorganisms for Patent Procedure and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
Inventors not signatories to any of the above-mentioned treaties with Nigeria must register their inventions with the Department in line with the Act. Nonetheless, inventors can opt to patent their inventions with WIPO, which has over 180 member countries and is recognized all over the world.
The laws of patents protect inventors’ unique products from copying. Nigerian law protects patented inventions for 20 years after the filing is made. Nigerian law is also applicable to foreign inventors.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Computer programming innovations are registered under the copyright Act as copyrights.
Failure to patent your invention will expose your invention to theft by the public and may deny you gaining the benefit of your invention.