World IP Day: Green Innovation and Wealth Creation in Nigeria

Published: June 1, 2020

Oluwole Olukoya Allan & Ogunkeye Lagos, Nigeria INTA Bulletins Committee - Middle East and Africa Subcommittee

With an increased global emphasis on combating unsustainable environmental practices, governments around the world are looking to green innovation as a vehicle to achieving sustainable development and wealth creation. In a panel discussion around the 2020 World IP Day theme of innovating for a green future, consideration was given to the role trademark law can play in advancing this objective in Nigeria. 

The World Intellectual Property Organization Nigeria Office and INTA came together to host a virtual event on April 28 on “An Executive Look at the Role of Trademark Law in Advancing a Green Future in Nigeria.” The event was moderated by Busola Bakinson (Jackson, Etti & Edu, Nigeria), and the panelists included:

  • Registrar of Trademarks, Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment, Shafiu Adamu Yauri (Nigeria);
  • Chair of INTA’s Law and Regulation Committee–Africa Subcommittee, Davidson Oturu (ǼLEX Nigeria);
  • INTA Board Member Uche Nwokocha, (Aluko & Oyebode, Nigeria); and
  • Senior Lecturer at the Department of Commercial and Industrial Law, Faculty of Law, Adejoke Oyewunmi, (University of Lagos, Nigeria).

Green innovation was described during the event as a process of bringing new environmentally friendly products or services to the marketplace. According to Ms. Oyewunmi, innovation and environmental sustainability (referred to as “green innovation”) on the one hand, and intellectual property on the other, are closely intertwined and enjoy a synergistic, interdependent relationship.

Mr. Oturu, partner in ǼLEX’s IP, technology, and telecommunications practice groups, spoke about ecolabeling and certification marks and emphasized the role they play in green innovation and trademark protection. He stated that “in the absence of an IP Policy in Nigeria, it is difficult to use these processes as there are no certifying agencies that presently exist that can certify a product as ‘green’ and label it accordingly.”

Mr. Yauri stated that the Trademarks Registry in Nigeria is working on a set of practice directions, and efforts are being made regarding the amendment of laws in order to regulate the use and protection of eco-friendly or green trademarks. The idea is to set standards on what is acceptable and registrable and what is not.

It was observed that because there is a close synergy between green innovation and environmental sustainability, business entities that promote environmentally friendly products—for example, waste recycling and gas emission reduction—are more likely to enjoy patronage and support from the marketplace. 

Panelists discussed how increased awareness and campaigning by climate change activists has awakened in Nigerian consumers a new wave of demand for eco-friendly products and processes, creating a huge opportunity waiting to be tapped in the area of green innovation. 

It was noted generally that the introduction of up-to-date policies and laws on intellectual property (IP) rights, including trademark laws, could contribute to moving Nigeria from a commodity-driven economy to one driven by environmentally sustainable innovation.

Panelists offered recommendations in support of Nigeria’s effort to harness the wide range of benefits available in the area of green innovation. Among these were the following:

  • Amendments of the existing laws, to give adequate protection to investors/manufacturers of eco-friendly products;
  • Formulation and enforcement of robust IP policies, to serve as guidelines to agencies in this sector; 
  • Encouragement for the Trademarks Registry to issue a Practice Direction to guide trademark practitioners and investors/manufacturers in the sector, on the importance of labeling and the process of registering eco-friendly trademarks; 
  • That the government should provide adequate incentives to support investors/manufacturers of eco-friendly products, for example, the extension of patent rights beyond the usual 20 years; and
  • Advice to investors/manufacturers to protect their green innovation by obtaining the requisite certifications/registrations from the relevant bodies, for example, the Standards Organization of Nigeria and the trademark office.

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

© 2020 International Trademark Association