Overhauling the Trademark Registry

As a side hustle (every Nigerian has one), the Lady recently considered providing Trademark registration services in addition to business registrations. After much deliberation, the Lady has decided to put that on hold. Why? Refer to here and here.

This led the Lady to reflect on what she would do to overhaul the system if she were appointed the Registrar of Trademarks. (A Lady is allowed to dream.) Here goes:

  1. Close the Registry to the public for a year! No new friends The backlog needs to be cleared and she doubts it can be done alongside new ones. Closing it to the public will no doubt have its downsides.
  2. Digitise all registered trademarks and devices. This can be done during the closure or during renewal for old marks that have not been captured on the IPO website.
  3. Create an online search database for registered trademarks and devices. This follows from the previous point. The Lady wants a situation where anyone can easily search the database as she did with the Skippy and Super County peanut butter incident.
  4. Draft procedural guidelines for trademark examinations. The Lady has received flimsy denials that were overturned on appeal and ought not to have been issued in the first instance. This will be done in conjunction with experts across the globe and locally.
  5. Employ trained experts – tech gurus and design experts to assist with backend logistics as well assist with determining distinctiveness.
  6. Establish a professional certifying body for trademark examiners. If people are going to invest so much in coming up with trademarks, the least that can be done is having experts attend to the registration process.
  7. Publish a digital trademark weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Dispense with that poorly printed journal. The Lady is aware that is a major source of income, but there are other ways to make money.
  8. Create an online trademark docket system for easier management.
  9. Have scheduled quarterly tribunals to deal with appeals.
  10. Produce a quarterly and annual report of registered trademarks.
  11. Push for a new Trademarks Act enacted and have foreign treaties ratified.
  12. Create a separate and functioning website for the Registry, which will be separate from the registration Portal. The public needs more information on the operations of the Registry.

These are some of the ideas the Lady is willing to share for now. If you were the Registrar of Trademarks in your country, what would you do differently?

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Inspired by @aistemos

February 24, 2016, @aistemos tweeted an observation (reproduced below), which struck home.

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The Lady shares in their frustration as it is something she has had to deal with on her personal and blog timelines. With the volume of retweets on her timelines, the Lady is often confused as to who she really follows. For this reason, the Lady has resorted to a regular schedule of Twitter purge during which she unfollows handles whose content are largely retweets. On her personal timeline, the culprits are often birthday celebrants and celebrities (I do not for the life of me understand how people follow celebrity handles).

On her blog timeline, however, the Lady admits that she has been guilty of the occasional retweets that clog your timelines with information you probably just read. (Apologies m’kind followers). Her defence? Just cause. The Lady will now proceed to justify this occasional annoying retweets on the following grounds:

  1. Support: This a huge part of Social Media visibility. You want to promote your blog? Comment (furiously) on other blogs and sign off with “check out my blog at ipmanor.wordpress.com”. On Twitter, you do this by retweeting others as opposed to commenting. Retweeting is perceived as a symbiotic relationship. People retweet others with the intention of catching their attention (a follow back). In some cases, the recipients attempt to return the (albeit) unrequested favour by retweeting you. It helps if they have a huge followership. The Lady, however, draws the line at retweeting retweets of your tweets.

On the other hand, it could be you trying to promote the other person’s emerging platform.

  1. Perception and Audience: Handles often have different followers. Sometimes, the line is blurred and you have similar followers especially when it is a niche area like IP. For instance, the odds are that IP enthusiasts in Europe follow @JeremyTheKat or @Ipkat. If the Lady were to retweet them, her IP followers from Europe will probably find this repetition mildly irritating. However, other followers may appreciate the retweets until they start following the original handles.
  1. Content: In some cases, the tweets in question are of news value, so you simply retweet. After all, providing content is often one of your aims. The proviso here is that these retweets will complement existing original content.

Sometimes, retweets are also an indication of agreement. By retweeting someone’s opinion, you are telling your audience you agree with that line of thought and you probably could not have expressed it better. Related to this, is sharing content you find too interesting to keep to yourself.

On the other hand, it could be an indication of disagreement in which case, you would follow it with a disclaimer and proceed to express your thoughts on the subject matter.

4. News Aggregation: Some handles exist as news aggregators for niche areas – @3DPrintBoard, for instance. There is, however, a thin line between this function and lack of original content. You can still be original as a news aggregator by using your words to introduce the link.

The observation by @aistemos has reminded the Lady that audience perception is very important. We do not want @ipmanor to be counted as one of those annoying handles so we shall strive for originality on all platforms at all time. What about you?

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.