Intellectual property

Intellectual Property Piracy And Counterfeiting In Nigeria


Intellectual property rights (IPR) refers to the creation of the mind, inventions, literary and artistic work, symbols, names, and images used in commerce. It’s divided into two broad categories. Industrial Property Rights and Copyright. Industrial property rights include patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indications. While copyright covers literary works (such as novels, poems, and plays) movies, music, artistic work such as drawings, paintings, photographs, sculptures, and architectural design, also right related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings and broadcasters in their radio telecommunication programs. The proliferation of information technology brings about rise in intellectual property abuses, disregard, and working against the legal provisions on Intellectual Property

Rights. Recently in 2022, the federal government of Nigeria said it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a UK-based developing Africa group to create Africa’s first intellectual property rights Commercialization project in Nigeria. Thus, the memorandum will allow the group to use IPR as a means of resolving some of the investment challenges facing Nigeria as well as creating jobs, trade, and services. Trade and services are crucial to the promotion of economic development and Nigeria happens to be one of the strong regional hubs of trade in Africa, being the continent’s biggest economy. It’s no surprise that Nigeria has attracted the world IP governing bodies in Abuja as Nigeria hosted one of two world intellectual property offices (WIPO), this will create up to 15,000 jobs across Nigeria for the detection of fake labels and abuse of trademark rights and other IPR violation crimes in Nigeria.


Intellectual property rights consist in the achievement of gifted people who create, preserve, and express the history and culture of their people, essentially through music, writing, dancing, plays, and other ways in order to encourage the creation and dissemination of information and ideas that enrich peoples’ lives. Ojiji (1992) stated that people who possess these wonderfully creative and interpretative talents are the country’s cultural workers who write books, compose inspiring music, and paint. He further stated that these cultural works of the mind aptly refer to the intellectual property and when this property is protected by law then it emerges to what is known as intellectual property rights. Similarly, According to Akunyili (2010), intellectual property rights are rights conferred on an individual or corporate body with respect to the product of his or her intellect guaranteeing the exclusive control of his or her work for a limited period of time.    

The vitality of intellectual property rights is today assuming unprecedented attention nationally and internationally. This is visible in the formation of bodies such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), The Nigerian Copyrights Commission (NCC), and many calls for workshops, conferences, and seminars by these bodies. New development in modern science and technology coupled with challenges arising from the competitive nature of international trade vis-a-vis the usefulness of preserving intellectual property rights from infringement heightened this upsurge of interest. (Akunyili 2010).

Intellectual Property Rights help to attract foreign investment and enhance technological transfer. This is vital because no businessman will try to invest where his trademark, patent, would be abused. The economy of Nigeria is failing because of the non-involvement of foreign investors in the trade and technology sectors. The reason is partly because of intellectual property violation and non –governmental seriousness over the violation. Affirming this is a top executive of a German pharmaceuticals company stated:

 “We are not prepared to transfer high technology into a country in which our Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is not protected and in which we will lose control of it

One of the usefulness of intellectual property rights is that it creates order in the universe of publications, research, and inventions, and with it plagiarism, piracy; counterfeiting, and other abuses are kept at bay as ownership will no longer be contested. Hence, GROVES (1997) observed that intellectual property rights prevent conflicts among individuals and nations over ownership of intellectual property. Intellectual Property Rights encourage innovations and creativity which in turn lead to societal growth and development. Legal protection enables the owner of a work to control the publication or use of his work. In recognizing the rights of the creator of a work SAUNDERS (1992:64) stated thus:

‘’it’s just that an author should reap the pecuniary profits for his ingenuity and labor; no author should use his work without his consent. it’s fit that he should judge when to publish, it’s fit whether he will ever publish, it’s fit he should not only choose the time but the manner of publication, how many, what volume, what print.’’

The promotion and protection of intellectual property rights enhance economic growth and creates new jobs or new industries which promotes the level of quality of human life. An effective and equitable Intellectual Property Right system can help all countries to realize their potential as a catalyst for economic and social development. EPHRAIM AFEBENDE AND NKEBEM (1997) Quoted OKOROJI as having lamented thus:

“What started as a personal problem of musicians has become a big problem for investors and book publishers, a problem for motor spare parts, manufactures, counterfeiting has become a national problem, and you now have the option of buying an original work or what was termed as Aba made or pirated works”.

Abuses of intellectual property rights exist when these rights are not honored when legal orders backing them are not inaction or flouted. This abuse robs a nation of creativity and encouragement of innovation or economic growth and development. Stating the input of infringement, the Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC 2018) Quoted Obasanjo as regretting that:

“The damage effects of piracy are visible around us, the waning of creativity, the dearth of well-researched books and reading materials in the educational sector”.


Statistics show that several factors contribute to the wide-scale proliferation of counterfeit and pirated products throughout Nigeria and Africa including the disproportionate size of its informal economy, corruption, outdated legislation, weak enforcement mechanisms, and unawareness among consumers of the risk involved. The most vulnerable sector is the pharmaceutical industry where it’s estimated that up to 30% of medications in the African market are counterfeit and 100,000 people die in Africa per year due to fake anti-malaria drugs alone. Nigeria is the largest market in Africa for counterfeit and pirated products and also serves as a gateway to the rest of the continent for rampant illicit trade. The entertainment industry in Nigeria is one of Africa’s biggest industries, a report by the NTA in 2008 estimated the total annual loss of the entertainment industry (music, videos, film, art, theater) to be well over N100,000 billion. In 2013 the Nigeria copyright commission (NCC), disclosed that Nigeria is losing over US$1billion to piracy annually.

Creativity and innovation are proven drivers for economic growth and competitiveness. Research has shown that economic growth is related to how well the economy encourages, stimulates, and fosters creativity and innovation. The World Bank estimates that for every legitimate copy sold nine others are pirated and if adequate Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) measures were taken, a million more jobs could be created in the film industry in Nigeria. Several factors hamper the development of strong Intellectual Property Rights in Nigeria. One is the cross-cutting nature of IP is not sufficiently acknowledged. Another is that, in general IP is not accorded a prominent place in the national and economic agenda. Moreover, the financial and material resources available for IP are inadequate. The IPR is the only way to protect authors’ creativity and ensure the security of national intellectual treasures and resulting economic profit. Without adequate protection, owners of IP suffer economic loss and the government is denied revenue from legitimate production. Many experts believe that a modern and well-managed IP system could be the catalyst for economic growth, with a population of over 200million Nigeria, is likely to generate more revenue in the exploitation of its IP.

The astonishing damage piracy and counterfeiting are doing to the Nigerian economy affect important industries such as entertainment, textile, pharmaceuticals industry, and many others. The chairman of Longman Nigeria PLC Emmanuel Ijewere said: 

Authors and producers in the Entertainment industry have lost over 81 billion to counterfeiting and piracy, This circumstance has discouraged Nigerian authors from producing new materials since they feel that their work yield more profit to piracy and counterfeiting!

In the textile industry, for example, the United Nations Industry Development Organization reported that since 2000 more than 70,000 Nigerians working in the textile industry lost their jobs due to the accelerated closure of many manufacturing firms caused by the invasion of the market by cheap counterfeiters. The strength of a country’s IP regime is among the factors that influence firms to transfer technology or invest in a country. For example, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that the strength of a country’s patent right is positively correlated to inward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Economists found that a 1% increase in a country’s patent protection correlates to a 2.8% increase in a country’s FDI. The OECD’s Global Competition index takes into account IP protection as a pillar of a country’s competitiveness and attraction and in 2012 Nigeria’s IP protection and Competitiveness were ranked 110 and 115 out of 144 countries respectively but in 2014 the index decreased and Nigeria was ranked 126 and 127 respectively, this shows the effect that IP has in the microeconomic performance.


While the legitimate market has grown, counterfeiters have also recognized these opportunities and Africa particularly Nigeria has become both a target destination and transit route for knock-off goods. Cheap or substandard products are flooding the market through foreign and local traders. The infiltration of counterfeit medicine in Africa most especially Nigeria is of particular concern. The British Think Tank International Policy Network (IPN) estimates that globally fake drugs and tuberculosis drugs cause 700,000 deaths a year, a death toll comparable to “four fully laden jumbo jets crashing every day!”

In 2001 approximately 68% of medicines in circulation in Nigeria were unregistered and as much as 41% were believed to be fake. Thus, fake drugs are not the only counterfeit problems in Africa, also cheap counterfeit electronics and electrical components, and software, are flooding the African and Nigerian markets putting consumers at higher risk. When consumers pay the same price for both genuine and counterfeit goods they are often unaware that they are buying a fake product that may not only be vastly inferior but in certain cases even harm them.

The US Department of Commerce estimated that Nigeria was the largest market in Africa for goods that infringe on IPR. Brand owners suffered from no protection. There is also no serious protection by judicial precedent coupled with slow court proceedings. Thus, eroding brand equity in case of disputes and public awareness of the dangers of counterfeiting and the effect on the revenue of Nigeria. Lack of IPR protection forces investors to move their businesses to other better structured IPR jurisdictions resulting in loss of jobs and government revenue through nonpayment of taxes. The development and protection of IPR will highly encourage FDI and could make Nigeria a hub for investment opportunities. Lawyers are encouraging the federal government of Nigeria to enforce the country’s IP laws to protect individuals’ creative output.


According to WIPO 2012 report, Nigeria’s IP protection situation has recently witnessed some remarkable progress. For example, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), ensured an increase in the prosecution of copyright infringement. The NCC had undertaken more than 26 anti-piracy and counterfeiting raids, made more than 145 arrests, and seized over 6million pirated works including films, sound recording books, software, and broadcast equipment with a street value of over US $4.8 MILLION. Since December 2010, the NCC has intensified its copyright enforcement and anti-piracy activities. In January 2012, the NCC publicly destroyed some 722MILLION pirated works confiscated in anti-piracy and counterfeiting raids between 2007 and 2011. Furthermore, on the 27th of July 2014 NCC launched a new online registration system called The Nigeria E-copyright Registration system (NeCRS) which seeks to improve on the existing optional copyright notification scheme. The plan was established to enable the creators of copyright or persons who have acquired rights in these works to register their interest with NCC. Also, the Nigerian Government introduced the copyright (Optional Discs Plants Regulation) 2016 which mandates that all discs manufacturing companies In Nigeria need to register with the NCC and meet the required conditions for operation.


Businesses must constantly innovate to contribute to the success of today’s economy. However, weak IP regimes discourage such innovation. Every naira that is earned from counterfeit products is a naira stolen from the original intellectual property owner. The strongest tool with which to restore Nigeria’s intellectual property centers on a strong enforcement regime and legislative policy. Legislative recommendations for a healthy IP regime in Nigeria include improving enforcement procedures, strengthening local legislation and ratifying international IP agreements, enacting laws against internet piracy, fraud tightening borders, and addressing deficiencies in our criminal procedures. Adopting a collaborating inter-agency approach with regulatory and private sector players, expanding capacity building as it relates to IP rights, and increasing public awareness.

Similarly, dispute resolution mechanisms should be adopted in the settlement between parties. Examples are reconciliation, mediation, arbitration, small claims, and committees. The government could offer IP e-service portal to submit and manage requests along with detailed guides and video tutorials. Government agencies could track IP statistics to understand current trends and support decision-makers in making decisions. Thus, Government could also inform the public about the dangers of IP infringement on society and consumer’s health and empower the public with information on how to report cases of IP infringement via dedicated information centers, guides, and case studies.


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