INTA Collaborates on IP Workshop for Nigerian Judges

Published: November 4, 2020

Akeem O. Aponmade A. O. APONMADE & CO. Lagos, Nigeria Anticounterfeiting—Middle East and Africa Subcommittee | Global Advisory Council—Africa

INTA recently collaborated on a workshop to train Nigerian judges and regulatory agencies on fake medicines and online intellectual property (IP) crimes. While the Association hosts regular trainings for examiners and customs officials in Nigeria, this was the first time INTA participated in a workshop specifically for Nigerian judges.

INTA, the United States Embassy in Nigeria, the National Judicial Institute (NJI), and the Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (ACC) organized the workshop, entitled “Fraudulent Medicines and Intellectual Property Crimes in the Digital Economy: A Judicial Officer’s Approach.”

Held on October 21 and 22, the training drew participants from the 36 judicial divisions of the Federal High Court, and included four justices from the Court of Appeal. Tanya Hill, the International Computer Hacking & Intellectual Property Adviser (ICHIP), Africa, at the U.S. Embassy, coordinated the planning of the workshop and moderated the program.

The NJI, whose approval was required for Nigerian judges to participate in a training program, moved the event from an in-person one to a virtual environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other participants came from Nigeria’s regulatory agencies. In addition, IP rights holders in and outside Nigeria were present.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Honorable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, GCON, FNJI, opened the workshop. The Honorable Justice Rosaline Irorefe Bozimo, the Administrator of the NJI, and Kathleen FitzGibbon, the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy, Abuja, spoke on the role of the judiciary in developing IP enforcement in Nigeria.

Topics included the following:

  • The connection between IP and economic growth—the need for judicial protection;
  • Administrative, legal, and economic aspects of IP;
  • Fraudulent medicines and counterfeiting in the digital economy;
  • World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Judicial Institute: understanding the collection and handling of electronic evidence;
  • Using the judicial process to enforce against parallel importation of fraudulent medicines;
  • Other IP rights crimes in the digital economy; and
  • E-commerce and the regulations—its challenges and possible solutions.

Other speakers included representatives of WIPO, ACC, and INTA. They were joined by IP rights holders Chimwaradze Wellington of Unilever Africa, and and Sola Odumosu of British American Tobacco. Akeem O. Aponmade and Davidson Oturu, co-chair and member, respectively, of INTA’s Africa Global Advisory Council, made presentations on behalf of the Association.

In addition, Justices Michael Mills and Bernice Bernard of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Frank Lin of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and IP Crime Section, presented U.S. perspectives.

Presentations covered hypothetical copyright infringement, explored a compendium of cases, and distinguished between civil and criminal enforcement issues, such as burden of proof, remedies, and penalties. Also discussed were jurisdictional issues in cross-border enforcement and efforts to curb Internet piracy.

Other points included the incidence of fraudulent medicines during the pandemic, and a stage-by-stage analysis of adjudication of counterfeit cases and the elements required to establish culpability. In addition, speakers reviewed obligations under Article 61 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). And speakers highlighted best practices in U.S. law vis-à-vis Nigerian law. Mr. Lin’s presentation was designed to aid the judiciary’s awareness, understanding, and application of digital evidence, including managing in the context of a judicial proceeding.

Also highlighted in the workshop was the need for Nigerian judicial officers to draw valuable lessons from the practice in other jurisdictions that can be applied in the Nigeria judicial system so as to help the IP system grow.

The event joins a growing list of notable INTA involvements in Nigeria in the past few years. Mr. Aponmade, who first proposed this workshop, hopes to organize a follow-up workshop next year in collaboration with the other agencies.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest. 

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