Earlier this week the Nigerian Tribune published the paper that Adebambo Adewopo (Director-General, Nigerian Copyright Commission) delivered at the annual bar conference held recently in Abuja. The paper, "Intellectual property rights protection and legal practice in Nigeria: Challenges and prospects", paints a depressing picture of the state of IP in Nigeria today: general ignorance of the law, the absence of a national IP policy, a lackadaisical attitude towards infringement, inadequate funding -- these are all obstacles that must be overcome if investor confidence and economic growth are to be achieved. The general lack of specialist IP practitioners and of means of providing the right levels of education and training are singled out:
"Stemming directly from the problem of ignorance is the fact that the number of practitioners in the field of IP is few compared with other areas of legal practice in Nigeria. It is considered as an esoteric field of law, the preserve of technical specialists and corporate lawyers and although times have changed in many countries. This may not be unconnected with the fact that the teaching of IP has not been enthusiastically embraced by tertiary institutions particularly the Universities in Nigeria. Only few faculties of law offer IP as a course in their law curriculum at undergraduate level in Nigeria and fewer offer the programme at postgraduate level. And for faculties offering it, IP is just one of the optional courses available.Mr Adewopo's comments pose a challenge to both academic and professional IP lawyers in Nigeria, indeed a serious challenge to their professional skills and educational background. If any of them would like to write a response, Afro-IP will be pleased to publish it.
Lack of professionalism in the practice of IP law in the country is a major challenge to its practice. Although many legal practitioners claim to be IP expert in Nigeria, the truth is that their expertise is only limited to the filing of papers and forms for Patent, Design and Trademark application at the Trademark Registry which in reality does not really requires a deep knowledge of IP. IP law is a field of knowledge that is vast and deep.
Unlike in developed countries and even some developing countries, we donot have lawyers trained as patent attorneys or those with scientific background that can write patent claims and specifications. While the state of our law (for instance patent law) does not make a thorough examination of a patent claim mandatory thus making expertise in patent examination and the need for sound knowledge of drafting patent claim and specification necessary, the globalized nature of IP usage should make us to start looking in the direction of professionalizing the practice as a means of encouraging sound expertise in the field".