Did you stumble upon a new concept by accident or have you finally made headway in your stalled invention project? Then there is a likelihood that you are brooding over how to protect your brainchild from potential hijackers and impostors after having made such innovative discovery or reckonable success. This article provides the essential information you need to register a patent on your intellectual property in Nigeria.
What is a Patent?
A patent is a government licence that gives a person or a company a legal monopoly and exclusive rights to make, use or sell an invention from the exclusion of others for a given period of time. In other words, a patent is a grant of protection for a concept or an invention which prevents someone else from using the patented invention without the permission of the patentee.
The importance of Patent registration
The moment a person is awarded Patent rights over an invention, he is at will to exercise his rights over it as he so pleases. The patent confers upon the patentee the right to preclude any other person from making, importing, selling or using the invention or even stocking it commercial purposes. In addition, the patentee may grant a patent licence upon agreed terms or assign his proprietary rights over the invention to any person or company of his choice in any country.
The Legal Regime of Patents in Nigeria
The current Nigerian law on patent is regulated by the Patents and Design Acts Cap.344 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990(Act of 1970). It is administered by the Registrar of Patents, Trademark and Industrial Design department of the Federal Ministry of Commerce.
Who can register a Patent?
In Nigeria, interested applicant-inventors can only engage the services of accredited individuals or companies to register patents.
Requirements for Registration
For your invention to be eligible for registration or simply put “patentable” at the Office of Patents, Trademark and Industrial Design, such invention:
- Has to be new or the first of its kind (not forming part of the state of the art)
- Must involve an unobvious inventive activity
- Constitutes an improvement on a patented invention
- Must be industrially applicable or useful
- Must not be immoral, encourage offensive behavior, contradictory to public policy or excluded from the Act.
The first step is to make an application to the Registrar of Patents. However, a preliminary procedure to such application is to conduct a search to ascertain whether or not an existing or similar invention has been patented to avoid legal repercussions. Upon getting a positive search result, the registration proper can be commenced with the said application consisting of:
- A petition or request for a patent with the applicant’s full name and address. If the applicant’s address is outside Nigeria then a service address will be admissible. (form 1A)
- A signed power of attorney authorization of agent if the application is made by an agent (form 2)
- A specification including a claim or claims/rights sought by the applicant in duplicate (form 3)
- Plans, description and drawings of the invention (if any) in duplicate.
- A declaration by the true inventor (where applicable) requesting that he be mentioned as such in the Patent with his name and address.
- Such other matter as may be prescribed depending on the facts of the application.
- A prescribed fee (to accompany the application)
The Registrar shall examine every patent application as to its conformity with section 3(1), (3) and (4) of the Act (formal compliance), and after examination, once the application satisfies the statutory requirements as to the completion of form, payment of appropriate fees, it dates to only one invention, the Registrar is likely to grant the patent without enquiries to its novelty, inventiveness and industrial applicability or whether the specification sufficiently discloses the invention. No substantive examination of inventions is carried out.
Patents are granted at the risk of the patentee and without guarantee of their validity.
Duration of a Patent Grant
A patent expires after 20 years from the date of filing of the patent application. A patent will lapse if the prescribed annual fees are not duly paid in respect of it. However, a period of grace of six months is allowed for payment of the fees and if the fees are paid within that period, the patent continues as if the fees have been duly paid. The expiration or lapse of a patent is normally registered and notified.