Random Musings from the Manor – Specialising in IP as a Nigerian Lawyer

Airports are also a great place to meet people if you are not content with just people-watching. Nothing like a delayed flight to stir up conversations between people who have barely said a word to each other in the departure lounge all afternoon. The Lady has become rather accustomed to delayed flights (due to operational reasons, of course) and attempts to discover new ways to amuse herself all the time. Sometimes, reading a book just does not cut it. Someone needs to sue an airline for these delays by the way (no out-of-court settlements please).

Delayed flight. Yes. 2 Hours. The Lady got talking with some fine gentlemen – one, a senior colleague at the bar. We talked about suing airlines. The senior colleague has a case in court and the Lady will be on the lookout for the final judgment. We also discussed our frustrations as Nigerians (of course!) and our vocations. In the course of this, the Lady mentioned she intends to specialise in IP, which earned her a lecture from her senior colleague.

The Lady has received as many of these lectures advising against specialising as she has encouraging same. The senior colleague like many in the past made some valid points. The summary of which is – Nigeria is not ready for specialised Lawyers. He did state that clients prefer successful general practitioners who have made a name for themselves than specialists they have never heard of. Besides, feeding of specialist cases means that briefs are far and in between.

Remember the post on registering trademarks? Yes, case in point. Having worked at a law firm, the Lady can attest to this conclusion – IP briefs are far and in between. Probably, the least earners when compared to advisory briefs. The Lady recalls her concern with constant references to old cases during her study of IP in her undergraduate days. There were barely new decisions to study. A far cry from what obtained during her postgraduate study in Europe. Up until the day of her examination, she had to stay abreast of recent developments relevant to the course in question. The difference between a Merit and a Distinction. A look at IPKat will give you a better insight into the fast-paced development of IP protection in the Europe. Studying IP in Europe was an exhilarating experience the Lady will forever be grateful for.

A lot of Nigerian law firms claim to offer IP services, but these services barely scratch the surface of what IP encompasses. Many of the services rendered include mostly Trademark registrations and contract reviews. Litigation occasionally. Patents are the worst hit. A reflection of the level of innovation in the country. The Lady did have the honour of discussing patents with a senior colleague who had handled a patent case and will definitely be recommending him to anyone who inquires.

Nevertheless, the Lady still has grand plans of opening a boutique IP firm. You can tell that she is not easily deterred. The Lady’s passion for IP has opened countless doors for her. It has been an overwhelming journey simply because she fell in love with IP. So to anyone out there who is keen on specialising in IP, but has been told to focus on Commercial Law instead since it encompasses IP, the Lady says FOCUS ON YOUR PASSION!

There is a ready market for IP in Nigeria. If in doubt, look at the creative industry. Even the finance industry – Nigerian Creative and Entertainment Industry Stimulation Loan Scheme. There is also an increasing awareness of IP by young practitioners. More and more people are focusing on IP at a higher level of study.

Encouraging as these developments may be, in the absence of law reforms and effective enforcements, specialisation in IP will never be a viable option. Enforcement is the bane of our legal system. Getting it right will open the door for specialisation in various aspects of the law and not just IP.

Trivia – Can you identify an airline by the tail of its aircraft?

PS: Aircraft engines can be a bit noisy, but if you do get assigned a window seat by the wings, take some time to observe how the flaps extend downward during take-off and landing. The airplane is a fascinating piece of invention I tell you.

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