Intellectual Property Rights; Who Owns Your Dream? with Nta Ekpiken

Nta Ekpiken the Senior Associate from Aluko & Oyebode hosted our first EDG Africa Webinar session with a focus on giving entrepreneurs a better understanding on Intellectual Property Rights.

Aluko & Oyebode is not only one of Nigeria's leading firms, but they are also very well versed in Intellectual Property Rights


NTA EKPIKEN: Hi everyone.

I’m here to answer any question you have on this topic

First Question

QUESTION: If I wanted to register my intellectual property/business idea, where is the first place I'd go? Is it better to go directly to a lawyer or is there a governing body that handles this directly as well?

NTA EKPIKEN: So it depends on want you want protected. If it’s your invention (physical product) then it’s a patent, if it’s your logo or brand name then it’s a trademark.

QUESTION: So, can I protect a business idea?

NTA EKPIKEN: It’s advised you speak with a lawyer so you are properly guided. Ideas are not protected, expressions of ideas are protected not the idea itself.

QUESTION: How about if its an idea that already exists but there is a twist or a more developed side to the idea...can I still trademark it?

NTA EKPIKEN: So take for example you have an idea to build a house, that idea cannot be protected but the architectural drawings of the house can be protected. This means it is the expression of the idea and not the idea itself that can be protected.

QUESTION: I do a lot of work with the government and I send proposals with my ideas in for do i get the ideas to not be stolen?

Is this where NDAs come in?


QUESTION: I doubt the government will sign an NDA before seeing the idea though.

NTA EKPIKEN: I agree which why you need a lawyer to advise you on this.

QUESTION: What's the process like for registering a trademark... I saw a question above about going to a lawyer... Is this the only way?

NTA EKPIKEN: Trademarks are easy to file, you need an agent to help you file. Most agents are lawyers. It takes an average of 12 months to get a trademark registered in Nigeria, you need an agent to handle the process, same as patents and designs

QUESTION: Wow interesting. That's a lot of time.

NTA EKPIKEN: Yes a lot of time but once the mark is accepted for registration which can be done within 6 weeks, you can start using the mark.

QUESTION: How much does it cost to trademark?

NTA EKPIKEN: I can send you a memo on this later

QUESTION: That seems like a set up. If you start using it after 6 weeks and after a year they find it's being used, do you lose everything?

NTA EKPIKEN: Patents registration also take a minimum of one year too. Copyright notification is the fastest because copyright is automatic. so within 6 weeks the Registry will examine and confirm to you if there is a prior similar or identical registration. If there is none then you can go ahead to use pending publication. When it is published and no third party opposes to your registration then you will be issued a registration certificate.

QUESTION: Oh ok. So it would seem that the wait time would be to ensure there aren't any objections?

 NTA EKPIKEN: This is the reason why we always advise that every business owner seeks legal advice which is free. So if I/my firm handles the process on your behalf, you can breath easy and will only be informed when there are issues.

QUESTION: Thanks for this forum. Recently I built an app for a company. Weeks after completion, they want me to handover not just the app but the source code. I refused. Though there was no contract, do I have to state it in writing that my clients don't own source code?

NTA EKPIKEN: Softwares are protected by copyright and since you built it then it’s yours. There can be no transfer of ownership except done in writing so since you have no contract in place then no transfer can be made. You can go ahead and provide a contract and state that you own the source code.

please notify NCC of the software (copyright notification) for record purposes which will help if there is a dispute.


SEAN BURROWES: Alright everyone, I'd like to thank Nta and Aluko & Oyebode for taking the time with us. I hope we all found value in today's webinar!

ATTENDEE: Thank you Ingressive and the speakers. I've learnt a lot today.


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