African intellectual property law, practice and policies. This weblog provides news, information and comment on IP law, practice and business deals right across Africa. Ce blog propose des actualités, informations, et commentaires sur la législation et la pratique en matière de propriété intellectuelle et de droit des contrats d'affaires en Afrique. For some insight into the origins of this blog click here.
Congress for Progressive Change (one of the merging parties)
indicated to Nigerians and the rest of the world that they had merged
into a single “mega” political party to be called All Progressive Congress
(APC). Upon submitting the requisite documents for registration with the
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC pronounced “eyenek”), “mega
party APC” was informed that it could not proceed with registration of its
proposed name as another political party already exists with the same APC-acronym.
This “early bird APC” is known as African Peoples’ Congress (APC).
Ballot paper (party logos and acronyms only)
While “mega party APC” has threatened
to sue INEC for refusing to register the party, “early bird APC” has also
threatened to sue INEC should the electoral commission attempt to register “mega
Even though issues of criteria for political
party registration might not readily fall with the purview of intellectual
property protection, it is interesting (at least for Nigeria) that acronyms are
important for the success of any political party. Only acronyms and party logos
are written on ballot papers. Parties chant their acronyms on the campaign
To the extent then, that acronyms
form an important part of a party’s “brand identity”, what should be the
criteria for registration? First-come-first-serve? Likelihood of
success in elections? National spread?
Would acronyms possess the “distinctiveness” quality required for trade mark protection? In the
case of TheProcter and Gamble Company v. Global Soap
and Detergent Industries Limited and the Registrar of Trade Marks (discussed elsewhere on this blog), the Nigerian Court of Appeal seemed to suggest that regular words would be considered
distinctive if the proprietor of the mark can show that it was the first to use
the mark in relation to the goods in question.
Further, Section 9
of the Trade Marks Act permits the use of the name of a company, individual or firm as a
trade mark but requires that such name be represented in a “special” manner.
Whether acronyms will qualify as “special” representation, will depend on the
goods on which the proposed mark is to be used and perhaps other features such
as colour, font and the like.
Acronyms may be too
generic (in most cases) to be distinctive as they are, by their very nature,
open to conventional use (For instance, both Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and Ginika Teka Balls Limited can lay claims to "GTB"). However, after all is said and
done, a company wishing to use an acronym as its mark would have to ensure that
another party has not registered such acronym as a trade mark and that no prior
domain name registration has been obtained with the acronym.