By Henry Uche, Lagos
Business lawyers have said that Nigeria’s Intellectual Property has been at risk since the advent of internet and digital disruption in the business world. The disclosure comes amid ongoing discussions and consultations on exploring the opportunities embedded in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
‘While countries are exploring the opportunities of AfCFTA, the creative industry in Nigeria is being threatened the more following Nigeria’s non-membership with the African Regional Intellectual Property organization (ARIPO) which has with it, enormous benefits including collaboration with other African Countries,’ they maintained.
According to a Commercial Dispute Resolution Lawyer, Prince Nwafuru, Nigeria has been missing out from the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), which grants and administers Intellectual Property (IP) titles on behalf of its member-states and provides IP information to its clientele in the form of search services, publications and awareness creation.
At the 2021 Legal Business Conference put together by Legal Business Network (LBN) in Lagos, Nwafuru added that, ‘the implications of this kind of collaboration which Article 4 of the Treaty spelt out maybe difficult if we still stand aloof from ARIPO, thus our non-membership is a bad signal, so we need to show leadership, more so, the federal government must review and update business laws and policies both internal, bilateral and beyond, with the aim of protecting our Intellectual Property (IP), local content and other brainchildren.
‘Government should redirect its energy and other resources to sound laws and policies that would boost the potentialities of young people and to position them well to compete favourably anywhere in the world as a strategy of reviving the economy; instead of dwelling on politics all the time which has not yielded any desired result,’ he stressed.
The Founder, LBN, Ifeoma Ben, who spoke on the theme, “Entertainment Law & Business: Issues & Opportunities”, said as the entertainment industry grows rapidly, so are legal issues and challenges peculiar with the sector emerging alongside like IP theft, copyright issues, breach of contract among others which must be addressed, hence the need for the players, actors and other stakeholders to understand the intricacies involved to avoid being exploited by intellectual rogues.
‘So many talents are springing forth in the creative Industry, but a majority of them do not know how to build a legally protected business neither do they know how to seek redress when and where their IP is tampered with, so this gap (dearth of knowledge) is what Legal Business Network was designed to fix among other solutions in the business world.’
Ben urged the federal government to closely follow up AfCFTA regional market by way of monitoring every agreement, plans, Policies and MOUs and every action(s) which Nigeria (on their side) was signatory to regarding AfCFTA to ensure that implementation remains practicable.
She added that the federal government should keep an eye on the activities and operations of the regional market through research and development and take the lead and call for adjustment when and where necessary as giant of Africa to provide an environment for fair trade.
‘Nigeria should not lag behind nor go to bed over AfCFTA. It took much time for Nigeria to sign the Agreement; now that we are in, we should be at the vanguard to provide leadership for others, we must keep our eyes open through continuous research and development to see (where need be) for structural adjustment hence the volatility and turbulent business environment remains a challenge which must be prepared for.
‘Our national laws and policies must support indigenous content development, talent boost, IP protection and overall commercialization of creative Industry. Entertainment is taking the centre stage, therefore, government at all levels and other support individuals and groups should bankroll and cash in on the Sector for national growth and development,’ she stated.