Thursday, 3 July 2014

Encapsulating Nigeria’s Hope for IP

Adewopo book The title is a mouthful, According to Intellectual Property: A Pro-Development Vision of the Law and the Nigerian Intellectual Property Law and Policy Reform in the Knowledge Era, but it is also an accurate description of Professor Adebambo Adewopo’s Inaugural Lecture on becoming the Ademola Edu Distinguished Professor of Intellectual Property, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.  Another mouthful, but Nigerian’s handle these mouthfuls well.  [If you don’t believe me, this Little Leo has a great poster of the Nigerian Senator’s wives to show you.]

Professor Adewopo’s lecture was published back in 2012 and this Little Leo was able to get her paws on a copy at the end of 2013 courtesy of the author himself.  It took her a little while to settle into her den and read it - it’s difficult to turn pages with paws – and she invites you to do the same, if you haven’ already.

The lecture is delightful, featuring a romp through the historical landscape in which IP arrived in Africa, arose as a global field and pivoted under the changing face of inter-governmental organizations that found themselves with developing country majorities.  Professor Adewopo describes the our current surroundings at the end of this road as a “global stage” where we will “test the validity of intellectual property as the pre-eminent knowledge system in which to erect a just and sustainable new global economic order…”  Those words make you just want to run out and put on a super hero cape, don’t they?  We can concur the world!  We can bring happiness and prosperity to all!  Ok, maybe that’s a bit much, but his language certainly does help us grasp the large role IP law and policy currently play in any country’s prospects for development.

For anyone interested in the history of Nigeria’s IP laws, whether because they’re curious or want to look to Nigeria as an example (either of the do or don’t type), the lecture gives details about origins, updates and almost-updates for each area of IP law.  Professor Adewopo also discusses the various administrative agencies in charge of the different areas of IP in the country. 

In his discussion of the global era of intellectual property, Professor Adewopo points out that even this newest framework for IP must shift as simply lumping all developing countries into one category no longer works.  Different countries have different strengths and weaknesses, different industries that are successes or that need a boost.  A country’s intellectual property laws must be tailored for these domestic differences, he explains.

Reform of IP is viewed throughout the lecture not as a field of IP but as the totality of the field.  The goal of pro-development IP reform is a knowledge economy supporting and contributing to overall economic growth.  Professor Adewopo’s key for obtaining this goal is a focus on the environment in which the IP laws will be active and that such environment must want to be “desirous of transitioning into a competitive knowledge economy.”  He outlines the appropriate approaches for each of the three main fields of IP within the Nigerian context and goes on to explain four basic areas for IP reform in Nigeria.  These four are subject matter of IP rights, standards of IP protection, IP in the digital environment and IP rights administration.  In each area, he strives to balance the global dimension, social welfare and economic policy.  Solutions include moving away from the one-size-fits all model promoted internationally and de-fragmenting the IP Administration within Nigeria.

There are lots of ideas in the lecture and lots of promise for the future.  As far as books go, it’s not a very long read.  And, it’s available online in full here [pdf].  [This looks like a legitimate posting by the Nigerian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies, so this Little Leo sincerely hopes she did not just give you a link to a pirated version…]

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