Thursday, 30 January 2014

Nigeria enters the IPRs electronic administration league with WIPO?

After we heard of Kenya's new patents database, Afro-IP now learns, from this news report, that Nigeria's Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, has launched an Intellectual Property Automated System (IPAS) for Nigeria's IP office. Indeed, we all should be excited but this Leo has a few questions and assumptions. 

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Here are some interesting excerpts from that news report: 

"For investors, the minister said their services would not only be more efficient, quicker and cheaper, but also ensure transparency and accountability." (Good, Afro Leo has heard a lot about the current system)

‪“The introduction of the IPAS will further improve and uplift the integrity and standards of all applications that emanate from Nigeria,” the minister said. “It will enhance the confidence of both the local and international communities and further encourage local and foreign direct investment in the country. This is about consumer and investment protection and it is a very good development for the country.” 

"‪He said the IPAS would equally enhance the quality of examinations, decisions and services offered to applicants and the general public, while better services would further improve the image of Nigeria. While encouraging investors, international companies and the international community to register their industrial property asset, in line with international best practice, in Nigeria, the Director of Commercial Law, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Salman Mann, said the Nigerian public would benefit from a more efficient system, which would create wealth and more jobs for the people." 

"The Project Manager, World Intellectual Property Organisation, WIPO, Hisham Fayed, said the IPAS would be the biggest in Africa, while the computerisation programme would help in improving the speed of the application for patents trademarks and industrial designs." (Aha!, Afro Leo thought WIPO was involved)

This Leo is unsure about two things - the first one may well be trivial: (a) Was this IPAS financed by Nigeria? and (b) Is Nigeria really moving towards a publicly accessible IP database?

First, based on the headline, one would be forgiven to think that the Ministry has spent some of its budget for this. As this Leo found out (with the help of Afro Leo above), WIPO owns IPAS and has deployed it, free of charge, in some developing and least developing countries. (Are you sure they too did not get a helping hand from South Korea? asks Afro Leo) Perhaps, the news reports (including here) should have properly credited WIPO - despite the possibility that Nigeria may have spent meager sums in the process.

Secondly, Nigeria's IP office website, which this Leo thought had a free searchable database, is still exclusive to those signed up to the controversial accredited agents scheme. IP is seen as a public good; its dissemination (especially, patents) often spur further innovation and assists those seeking protection. Afro-IP will keep an eye out to see if the IP information held by Nigeria's IP office becomes public as a result of IPAS. 

In conclusion, this Leo is going to assume that our favourite UN specialist agency, WIPO, has just offered the much needed technical assistance to Nigeria. Although Afro-IP has reported (here, and here) on past attempts by Nigeria to go digital, we should take this seriously as one to be maintained for a considerable period of time - perhaps, subject to WIPO's funds not drying up quickly. 
For WIPO's global IPRs database ambition, see here and issues Nigeria should consider when contemplating on the dissemination of patent information are here

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