The 26th of April is designated to celebrate the strides and contribution of intellectual property across the world. Every year a theme is chosen to mark the intellectual property day. For the year 2020, the theme ‘Innovate for a Green Future’ has been chosen, the theme not only encourages environmentally friendly innovations but also echoes the sustainable development goals (SDGs 6, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15) outlined by the United Nations.
In 2018, Nigeria’s carbon oxide (CO2) emissions were estimated to be 110.7 million tonnes by Knoeme, amounting to 1% of global carbon emission. 50% of these emissions include carbon dioxide produced during consumption of gas fuels for the production of electricity. Nigeria has pledged to unconditionally reduce Green Gas Emission by 20% by 2030. It intends to achieve this goal by providing 13 GW of renewable electricity to rural communities that are currently not connected to the electric power grid, thereby reducing gas flaring.
According, to the reports from the UN Climate Change conference (COP 25) held in Madrid, Spain, in December 2019 , the Greenland’s ice sheet is melting seven times faster than in 1990s and that a quarter of the world’s population is at risk of water supply problems.
The impact of climate change is not only being felt across the globe but also in Nigeria. Nigeria has experienced extreme climate related events- flooding, storms, drought and the havoc associated with climate change.
Dealing with climate crisis is a hydra challenge, one which requires all hands to be on deck to build a green future. One of the most effective solutions of dealing with climate change is technology. This further emphasises the need to redouble efforts to establish robust national systems and enable access to effective national intellectual property systems that support the development of technologies, products and services needed to transit to a green future.
The pivotal role of Intellectual Property System in Nigeria in supporting the journey to a green future
The primary purpose of IP rights is to encourage innovation and creativity by providing innovators with a reward for their work and protect the goodwill vested in brands. IP rights allow those who hold them to prevent other people from copying or using their inventions without their permission. This creates opportunities for rights holders to generate revenue by charging for the use of the inventions. The prospects of an economic reward encourage business and individuals to invest in developing innovations and services that the environment can benefit from. When considering intellectual property and green technology, some types of intellectual property are relevant to some extent.
Patents: Technology has contributed to the climate change crisis being experienced in Nigeria. However, tackling climate crisis will also require climate friendly technology – new inventions and techniques, improvements to the existing technology. In this regard, patents play a key role. A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. The patent system supports technological development in a number of ways:
Patents help attract investments; patents help companies secure the investments required to realize large scale – scale green energy projects. For example, rural communities in Nigeria are benefitting from the patent protected technologies that offer clean, affordable and renewable energy. Take for examples products produced by Solarwox, SGS Nigeria and other renewable energy companies.
The Patent law in Nigeria requires that inventive process are fully disclosed in the patent application, once published it is available for the general public. This ensures that the technical knowledge pertaining to the inventive research is publicly accessible and can inspire further innovation.
The patent law in Nigeria also encourages the growth and expansion of business through patent licensing, technology transfer agreements and other forms of agreements.
Designs: Design rights play a role in the development, commercialization of technology. Many environmentally friendly technologies and equipment involves the production of designs that transform, conserve and utilize energy. The aesthetics of a product can be protected by design rights.
Trademarks: A trademark is a word, slogan, logo, symbol or the combination thereof. A trademark identifies the source, origin of goods and services of one company and distinguishes from that of another. The simple addition of words such as “environmental” “clean” “organic” can be used to inform consumers that the product and company is environmentally friendly.
Trade Secrets: trade secrets are confidential information which is either unsuitable for patenting or cannot be patented under the existing laws. Inventors and business owners can protect their technology so long as the protected information provides a commercial advantage and has not been disclosed except pursuant to confidentiality agreement. Trade secrets play a vital role of safeguarding the channels of know-how exchanges by providing a haven for dispersing proprietary knowledge. There are no specific legislation on trade secrets in Nigeria. However, the principles of common law will apply in protecting and enforcing trade secrets in Nigeria.
What more can be done?
Nigeria has and recognizes IP laws and rights but much more needs to be done in strengthening the laws.
Most of the Green and clean products in Nigeria are imported into Nigeria and not manufactured. The Nigerian IP has to develop systems for protecting and encouraging green innovations through:
Reviewing the IP Laws: The IP laws in Nigeria are out-dated and should be aligned with international best practices. The current IP laws and regime doesn’t preclude Nigeria from developing green technologies. However, the IP system lacks the capacity to adopt and protect high low-carbon technologies. There is need to properly review and amend Nigerian IP laws and also ratify, and implement effectively into national laws, the TRIPS Agreement and the WIPO treaties.
Fee Incentive: The IP system can develop a subsidised schedule of fees for indigenous environmentally friendly innovations and products or fast track the registration process for such patents as seen in other jurisdictions. This initiative will encourage production of environmentally friendly companies, products and services.
Institutional set-up: Nigeria and the rest of Africa are only playing catch-up to the high low-carbon technology advancement going on across the world. Nigeria should create institutions and agencies by which innovative strategies and ideals can be easily shared to increase the development of green technologies.
Partnership: The Patents and Design office should partner with the Nigeria Climate Innovation Centre to organise conferences and technological competitions on the need to develop indigenous eco-friendly technologies for Nigeria.
As IP professionals and stakeholders in Nigeria celebrate the world IP day let us remember the following words:
“The earth has music for those who listen”(www.geckoandfly.com).
The opinions in the articles are for general information purposes only and do not form a legal relationship or be taken as legal advice. To explore legal advice, please consult your solicitor or feel free to get in touch with us directly.