On 28 March, 2018, the Senate Committee on Trade and Investment held a public debate of the Trademarks Bill No. SB. 357 (the Bill) at the National Assembly Complex. The Bill seeks to repeal the existing Trademarks Act of 1967 and enact a new law in line with international best practices. Some key provisions in the Bill include the definition of trademarks which covers services, the extension of the validity period of trademark registrations (from 7 years to 10 years), the powers to make regulations to recognize and protect international trademark registrations in Nigeria, registration of trademark rights with the Nigeria Customs Service to facilitate seizures and destruction of counterfeit products, the establishment of criminal liability for counterfeiters, etc.
Our Senior Associate, Mr. Otu-Ekong Ukoyen attended the public debate as a representative of Olajide Oyewole LLP and the Intellectual Property Law Association of Nigeria (IPLAN) and delivered a presentation on the various legal and drafting issues arising including:
- Contradictions between the Bill and Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution.
- The need to expand the definition of trademarks to include sounds and scents, in accordance with current global trends and practices.
- The inadequate provisions in the Bill on publication of trademark applications and the omission of the timeframe for filing notices of oppositions.
- The need to provide for personal service of opposition processes to save costs for the Commercial Law Department and minimize delays in the opposition proceedings.
- The importance of the provision on registration of trademark rights with the Nigeria Customs Service and the need for same to be passed as a subsidiary legislation to the Customs and Excise Duties Law in Nigeria.
The presentation was noted by the Senate Committee and a request was made for written submissions to be forwarded as soon as possible.
Once the Senate Committee concludes its work on the Bill, it will report back to the Senate. Thereafter, a third reading of the Bill will take place. Subject to any further amendments, the Bill will be passed by the Senate and forwarded to the Clerk of the House of Representatives for concurrence. Upon consideration of the Bill by the House of Representatives, a Joint Conference Committee will be constituted to harmonize any differences between the two chambers on the Bill. If both chambers adopt the report of the Joint Conference Committee, a clean copy of the bill will be sent to President for assent/signature. It is hoped that the Bill will be passed by the Senate and House of Representatives before the end of the tenure of the current administration i.e. in May, 2019.
The Public hearing was attended by distinguished Senators Bala Ibn Naanah (representing the Senate President), Sabo Mohammed (Chairman, Senate Committee on Trade), Fatima Raji Rasaki, representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria, National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, Commercial Law Department, Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, the law firm of Aelex (representing the International Trademark Association) and other participants.