In a previous post, reference had been made to the cumbersome process involved in registering a trademark in Nigeria. The official website of the Trademarks, Patents And Designs Registry provides a theoretical guideline for registering a trademark in Nigeria. Do not be deceived by the seeming simplicity of the procedure. The reality is that registering a trademark in Nigeria is one of the most frustrating experiences you will have as a trademark owner or an attorney/agent. The Lady has contemplated reviewing the estimated timeline quoted for her clients, having previously stated between 12 – 18 months.
After reading numerous articles on various blogs/websites which merely regurgitate the procedure as laid down by the Trademarks Act, the Lady has kindly decided to share the realities involved.
- Availability Search: According to its website, “You can register your trademark – a name, logo, slogan, domain name, shape, colour or sound with the Commercial Law department, Ministry of Trade and Investment in Nigeria.” As far as colour or sound goes, the Lady cannot ascertain whether any have been registered. Not that the Act even contemplates same. Typically, only word searches are conducted at the Registry. This is done manually through agents (picture searching through numerous dusty and tattered files or at best, an index card) who will provide you with a handwritten report of the outcome of the search. Attaching a device is a waste of time as far as the Lady is aware. Whether the Registry issues official reports is a position that cannot be ascertained by the Lady.
- Filing: This is the easiest part (at least since the introduction of the online filing platform). An accredited agent logs in, fills out the relevant details and makes the necessary payment. Your attached device counts in this instance (the Lady does not recall any provision for the attachment of a sound file by the way). An acknowledgement letter is issued immediately. Thereafter, the application undergoes internal verification by the officials of the Registry.
- Acceptance: At this stage, your frustration may or may not begin subject to the emotions of the officer-in-charge. Acceptance is discretionary. Thus, your application may be refused for the flimsiest reason such as your trademark conflicting with a trademark previously registered and held by your good self. Yes, this is true. The Lady tells no fibs. Your application may be accepted in one class and denied in another for lack of distinctiveness (*insert confused smiley*). You will do well to consult the Act and its attendant Regulation to resolve this issue. The period between filing and acceptance may take anytime from 4 weeks upwards. If you’re unlucky, you will be informed of errors in your filling. On the other hand, your acceptance letter may be fraught with errors. Resolving this is no easy feat, but be rest assured that it can be done.
- Publication in the Trademark Journal: With your acceptance letter in hand, for the next few months or years, you will ask yourself and your contacts at the Registry when the next Journal will be published. Consider that there is a backlog of applications awaiting publication. Consider that some applications will be republished over and over again, and you will have to write to the Registrar to cancel subsequent republications. Consider also that the Journals for manual and online applications differ, both with irregular publication dates. If you are lucky, the Registry may publish 3 Journals within a year (case in point, year 2015). If you are unlucky, none of your applications will be contained in any of the Journals. Keep asking about the next publication and whatever you do, please do not forget to pacify your clients at regular intervals as an attorney/agent. Just in case you were wondering, the Journal is produced in hardback and not e-copies. The Registry does not even have the courtesy to announce the publication of new Journals on its website. In any event, your agent at the Registry or a colleague will notify you.
- Opposition: The Registry may spend about 2 months or more after the opposition period has elapsed to ‘mark’ the Journal, that is, ascertain which applications have been opposed or otherwise. Dealing with oppositions is no walk in the park and may require you chasing up on officials for a decision after all submissions have been made.
- Issuance of Certificates of Registration: Congratulations! How many months have gone by since you filed your application? 12? 18? More? Ah well, with any luck the Certificate of Registration may be issued shortly after publication or when oppositions have been settled in your favour. It may also be that Registrars have been changed in quick succession before they are able to sign anything. After all, there is also a backlog of certificates awaiting the Registrar’s signature.
That my dear guests, is a practical guide to registering trademarks in Nigeria. When you eventually receive your certificate, do not forget to renew it at the appointed time. As to how long the process takes, you be the judge of that.