Trademark well established a brand may be, it must continue to adopt an intellectual property (IP) strategy that aligns to its business or organizational model and goals otherwise risks missing out on revenue opportunities. Today’s brands must have a winning strategy, leveraging on their IP portfolio to gain competitive global advantage. This article seeks to determine the risks and threats in the use of unregistered marks in Nigeria-whether actual or potential.
It concludes by advising the need for trademark registration in the best interest of businesses operating in Nigeria. Unregistered marks are known as marks which are not registered in relation to goods or services, or in relation to a business.
According to the merchandise Mark Act, the Trade Marks Regulations 1967, and trademarks in Nigeria are governed by the Trade Marks Act 1965 (the Act). Trademarks in Nigeria are governed by the Trade Marks Act1965 (the Act), the Trade Marks Regulations 1967, and the Merchandise Mark Act. The Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry under the Commercial Law Department of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, is responsible for trademark registration in Nigeria.
The Trade Mark Act, the principal legislation, recognizes both registered and unregistered trademarks, but it does not entitle the owner of an unregistered trademark to enforce any rights under the Act. According to the Act, “no person shall be entitled to institute any proceeding to prevent, or to recover damages for, the infringement of an unregistered trade mark; but nothing in this Act shall be taken to affect rights of action against any person for passing off goods as the goods of another person or the remedies in respect thereof.
While big brands or startups may choose to proceed with the use of unregistered marks in Nigeria without registration they cannot absolve themselves of the attendant consequences and liabilities that accrue-ranging from loss of revenue to negative impact on strategic partnerships, licensing roadblocks to lost rights, inability to move into new markets legally to reduced customer loyalty and increased customer confusion.