HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF PATENT LAW IN NIGERIA

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF PATENT LAW IN NIGERIA

 

DEVELOPMENT OF PATENT LAW

 

Before the advent of modern technological advancement, there were local technologies. For example, in Northern Nigeria, there were products such as metalworking, textiles, dyeing, weaving, and tanning. Similarly, South East was famous for the craft of iron working, for example, cutlasses, hoes, and other agricultural implements. In the South West particularly Yoruba kingdom witnessed traditional medicines, wood and ivory designers and so forth. Middle Belt region had smithing, weaving, carpentry and dying as occupations. These local products and the process of producing them dominated the pre-colonial era in Nigeria[1].

 

Traditionally, Nigerians are not capitalist in nature. Therefore, intellectual property rights particularly patent was seen as a demonstration of craftsmanship rather than for pure economic values. Most of these products were for individuals or community use and therefore no infringement proceeding was attached to it. Some of them were deposited at the chiefs, emirs or obas’ residence for preservation for the traditional community. Products are usually identified by the inventor or maker in a particular way. Therefore, such products from the same individuals have an identity. However, as technology advances, the inventors became conscious and require apprentice under them before producing similar products.

 

When the British Government introduced its colonial administration, some changes occurred which brought about the concepts of ‘patent and design’ in Nigeria. The year 1900 witnessed the first enactment of Patent law in Nigeria through the British Patents Ordinance and Patents Proclamation for the Colony of Lagos and Southern Nigeria respectively. It was introduced in Northern Nigeria in 1902 by the Patents Proclamation[2] of that year. Each of these enactments contained full-scale provisions for granting and controlling of patents and were comparable to the English enactment on the subject at the time. Patent offices were set up under the control of a Registrar and his deputy. The Registrar exercised the functions which in the United Kingdom (UK) were carried out by the Comptroller-General of the Patents Office. Applications for patents were made to the Patent Office and appeals from decisions of the Registrar went to the Attorney-General who had the power to secure the assistance of experts in considering such appeals. The High Commissioner in the name of the Crown[3] granted a successful applicant with a patent.

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After the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914, all these enactments were repealed and replaced by the Patents’ Ordinance 1916, which applied throughout the country. The title of the Statute was altered in 1925[4] to “Registration of United Kingdom Patents Ordinance”, and, except for minor modifications, it remained the law on the subject until 1970. According to the Ordinance, application for a patent could no longer be made in Nigeria, instead, it provided that “a patentee in the U.K. or a person claiming through him, could within three years of the grant application to the Registrar of Patents in Nigeria to have his patent registered”. This means that Nigeria then had merely to register the patents granted by the British government. This position had changed since Nigeria now grants patents on its own. A certified copy of the specifications (including drawings) of the patent and a certificate of the Comptroller-General, giving full particulars of the issue of the patent on such specifications, is accompanied with every such application.

 

The Act to have comprehensive provisions for the registration and proprietorship of patents and designs in Nigeria and other matters ancillary thereto came to being in 1970 but became effective from 1st December 1971[5].

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Babafemi, F.O.B. (2007) Intellectual Property: The Law and Practice of Copyright, Trademarks, Patents and Industrial Designs in Nigeria, First Edition, Justinian Books Limited p.3

[2] No.17 of 1900. Note that all Ordinances and Proclamations are now Acts by virtue of Designation of Ordinances Act 1961, following independence in 1960. For purpose of clarity, however, the terms ‘Ordinances and Proclamations’ are retained.

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[3] In the Colony and the North, the Governor granted a patent in the name of the Crown.

[4] Cap. 182 of 1958 edition of Laws of Nigeria

[5] Babafemi, F.O.B. Op cit.

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