History of Intellectual Property Law in Nigeria

History of Intellectual Property Law in Nigeria

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names, and images used in commerce. In this article, we briefly discussed Intellectual property Laws in Nigeria.

This article seeks to examine the historical development of intellectual property laws in Nigeria as it is important to preserve our history and ability to track our legal development. Historically, there have been different stages in the development of intellectual property in Nigeria; the pre-colonial or the indigenous history, the classical period, incorporating colonial laws and post-independence period. There has been little to no evidence of a standardized form of intellectual property laws in pre-colonial African society.

History of Intellectual Property Law in Nigeria

Nigerian intellectual property law has a long history that predates the country. Though the history may be traced back to British colonists, it has evolved over time as circumstances have changed. As a result, for the purposes of this research, this long article will look at the history of copyright, trademarks, and patents individually.


The extension of the English Copyright Act of 1911 to Nigeria by Order in Council No. 912 of 1912 was the first attempt by the colonial authority to construct a legal foundation for copyright in Nigeria. This Act was in effect in Nigeria until 1970, after which it was abolished and replaced by the Copyright Act of 1956 in its home country.

The first indigenous legal instrument governing copyright concerns in Nigeria was Decree No. 61 of 1970. The failure of Decree 61 to safeguard creativity and scholarship resulted in widespread piracy, which deprived inventors, organizations, and individuals who assisted in the production or dissemination of creative works, as well as society, of potential money.

The then Federal Military Government established the Copyright Decree No. 47 of 1988, which is now known as the Copyright Act, in response to rising demand from artists, authors, and creators who are the original copyright owners.

The Act, which has been aptly described as one of the best of its kind, not only created the most favorable conditions for authors’ potentials to be realized through comprehensive protection of creative works, but it also included the establishment of a machinery for the administration of copyright and neighboring rights matters in Nigeria, namely the Nigerian Copyright Commission.

The Copyright (Amendment) Decree (No. 98) of 1992 and the Copyright (Amendment) Decree (No. 42) of 1999, respectively, altered the Nigerian Copyright Act. The creation of the Commission and revisions to the Copyright Act were justified in order to appropriately address the growing national and international obligations within the copyright business, as well as new difficulties in the copyright realm globally.

The provision in Section 32A of the 1992 Amendment of the Act for the appointment of Copyright Inspectors with special powers to enforce the law was a one-of-a-kind result of the amendment. The Copyright Act also incorporates the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) protection for copyrights.


The English Trademarks Act was introduced into the colonies as an Ordinance even before the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates to form what is now known as Nigeria in 1914, so intellectual property protection relating to trade marks in Nigeria can be traced back to the colonial era.

The Supreme Court Ordinance of 1914, which merged the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914, removed the existing statutes that applied to each protectorate. This Ordinance also made English Law almost identical to the abolished legislation, allowing it to be extended or applied throughout Nigeria. The applicable English law is made up of common law, equity doctrine, and legislation of wide application, all of which were passed by the British Parliament on or before January 1, 1900.

The Trade Marks Promulgation of 1900, promulgated by the High Commissioner of the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, was the first intellectual property law to be introduced to Nigeria. It was based on the Trade Marks Act of 1888, which was in effect in the United Kingdom at the time. Before the current Trade Marks Act was enacted in 1965, this 1900 proclamation went through a succession of reviews, repeals, and changes.

Patents and Designs Act

Because of its historical colonial link with Nigeria, Nigeria’s patent law, like copyright and trade marks before it, may be traced back to the British patent regime. The colonial authority initially implemented the patent system in the former colonies of Lagos and Southern Nigeria in 1900.

The Patents Proclamation Ordinance No. 12 of 1902 later expanded this to Northern Nigeria. When the Northern and Southern Protectorates amalgamated in 1914, the Patents Ordinance No. 30 of 1916 repealed all existing patent regulations in the several protectorates. Only the title of this Ordinance was changed in 1925. The Registration of United Kingdom (UK) Patents Ordinance No. 6 of 1925 came into effect.

It allowed for the registration of patents that had already been awarded in the United Kingdom in Nigeria. As a result, a Nigerian inventor had to first file for a patent for his idea at the UK Patent Office before proceeding to have it registered in Nigeria.

Until Nigeria gained independence and then became a republic, this was the situation. In response to the Ordinance’s shortcomings, the Nigerian government passed the Patents Privileges (Limitation) Act No. 8 of 1968, which gave the Nigerian government and its agencies powers and rights similar to those granted to the UK government under Section 46 of the UK Act of 1949.

The Patents and Designs Act No. 60, which was passed in 1970, finally put an end to the patent system’s vestiges of colonialism. The Registration of UK Patents Ordinance of 1925, the UK Designs (Protection) Act, Cap 201, Laws of Nigeria, 1958, the Patents (Limitations) Act 1968, and the UK Patents Act of 1949 were all repealed by the 1970 Act, which came into effect on the 1st of December, 1971.

The 1970 Act is still the most important piece of legislation in Nigeria that governs patents and design systems. The Patent and Designs Act of 1990 governs patent law in Nigeria, determining whether and to what extent products may be awarded statutory rights.

Read also: Scope of Copyrights Protection in Nigeria

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