Intellectual property

History of Intellectual property law in Nigeria


Intellectual property, in itself, is a product of the mind. It is the creative ingenuity, spun out of the workings of the mind. It is therefore an intangible property, or ‘chose in action’. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), gave a clear description and understanding of what really is. According to WIPO, Intellectual property includes; inventions, artistic works, and intellectual works. It also includes names, symbols, and images that are usually used in commercial work. While this description doesn’t categorically define what intellectual property is, it however gives you an understanding of what it entails.

As it relates to Nigeria, there are laws that regulate intellectual property, however, a concise look at the history of Intellectual property law in Nigeria would be pertinent.

History of Intellectual property Law in Nigeria

The concept of intellectual property law began its developmental stages in the 17th and 18th centuries in England. However, the term intellectual property, metamorphosed and became popularly used in the 19th century. Intellectual property practice however had its prevalence in the 20th century.

The Historical development of Intellectual property in Nigeria takes its bearing majorly from colonial influence. While, the pre-colonial era seems to have a semblance of intellectual property innovations, such as folk songs, woven clothes, paintings, designs, and sculptures, no laws or rules seemed to govern intellectual property rights during this period. It was the advent of the colonial rulers that ushered in a new dispensation of IP laws in Nigeria

One of the earliest statutes that regulated intellectual property law in Nigeria was actually a trademark case of W.B. Maclver & Co Ltd .v. Champaign Francaisse de L’Afrique Occidentable (1914 -1922) 3 NLR 18, 19. Similarly, Osborne CJ in Houtman’s case (1912), over a hundred years ago, mentioned in a judicial pronouncement, the importance of Intellectual property laws in colonial Nigeria’s commercial life; protecting the vast number of illiterates doing business and also recognizing trader who has made an innovative work or product.

The trademark proclamation of 1900, an instrument that made the UK Trademark Act applicable in the Southern protectorate, was later extended to the northern protectorate and the whole country. The extension was a result of the 1914 ordinance, amalgamating the protectorates of Nigeria. The above proclamation was then repealed by the Trademark Ordinance No. 13 of 1926, making it applicable to the whole of Nigeria. The Ordinance was later repealed in 1965, just 5 years after independence, by the Trademark Act of 1965. This Act was officially the first local Act regulating the IP environment in Nigeria. The Patent and Copyrights Acts came into force about 5 years after the enactment of the Trademark Act of 1965.

The Patent laws had a different mode of development. There were 2 patent Proclamation Ordinances, 1900 and 1902 which regulated the Lagos and Southern (and northern) protectorate respectively. Both Ordinances were repealed by the 1916 ordinance, which was incidental to the 1914 amalgamation. The Registration of the UK patent ordinance of 1925 went further to repeal the 1916 ordinance. The 1925 Ordinance was subsequently repealed by the Patents and Designs Act of 1970 and said Act has been in force to date (over 42 years), without any form or amendment.

With regard to copyright law, its historical evolution took a slightly different turn. The English Copyright Act of 1911 was extended to Nigeria by Order in Council of June 24 of 1912. This Act was in force in Nigeria till it was repealed in 1970 by the Nigerian Copyright Act. This 1970 Act was in force for over 2 decades, till pressure from the copyright industry, (such as the publishing and music industry) necessitated the need for a reform of the Act. The Act was later Repealed, and the Copyright Act of 1988 was subsequently Enacted. The Copy Rights Act was then amended twice, in 1992 and 1999, which greatly improved the IP regulation climate in Nigeria.

Consequently, there are 3 primary legislation that relates to IP law in Nigeria present, and they include; the Trademark Act of 1965, the Patents and Designs Act of 1970, and the Copy Rights Act of 1988 (as amended)

Treaties entered into by the Nigerian Government relating to IP Law

Other than the laws that govern IP laws in Nigeria, the Nigerian government in its magnanimity, thought it wise to enter into bilateral and multilateral treaties with organizations and countries, in other to improve the IP structure and climate in Nigeria. These treaties serve the purpose of bringing Nigeria laws up to date with world best practices.

Here’s a list of treaties signed by the Nigerian government over years.

  1. The Patent Cooperation Treaty. Came in force Nigeria on the 8th of May 2005
  2. Patent Law Treaty, came into force, on the 28th of April, 2005.
  3. Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO. Came into force in Nigeria on the 9th of April 1995

Some of the World Intellectual property treaties that came into force in Nigeria, and their dates

  1. Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms, and Broadcasting Organizations. In force in Nigeria on the 29th of October, 1993.
  2. Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Work. In force in Nigeria on the 14th of September 1993.
  3. Paris Convention for Protection of Industrial Property. Enforceable in Nigeria from 2nd September 1963.

These are but a few treaties that the Nigerian government has signed over the years. These treaties have, in turn, created a stable IP law environment and a cordial relationship with the signatories to the treaties.


The concept of Intellectual property practice is one that has permeated every facet of society. From factories and industries to NGOs, Banks, and even schools. Whatever it is, there should be laws and regulations that guide relationships resulting from Intellectual property practices.

Although it may seem that Nigerian laws on Intellectual property have not been updated, particularly the Trademark laws, treaties, and agreements are also veritable tools to aid the Nigerian legal atmosphere with regard to IP laws in the nation.


1. OVERVIEW OF THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW IN NIGERIA: law resolution firm. Retrieved from,Act%2C%20and%20the%20Trademarks%20Act.&text=Copyright%20is%20the%20exclusive%20rights,means%20the%20right%20to%20copy.

2. Intellectual property: Wikipedia. Retrieved from



5. Treaties Of Nigeria (Intellectual Property). Published by the Law Nigeria Admin. Retrieved from


About Jesam Otu Esq

Jesam Otu (esq) is a passionate young lawyer called to the Nigerian Bar in December 2022. He is interested in Intellectual property law, Tech Law (Fintech law), startup funding, and compliance. He believes these areas of law are coming more prevalent in this present technological age and has seen a need for lawyers to be well-equipped with knowledge in these areas of law.