By Innocent Anaba
United States Embassy Chargé d’Affaires, Kathleen FitzGibbon has said that strong intellectual property rights protection was essential to creating jobs and opening new markets for goods and services in Nigeria.
Chargé FitzGibbon stated this at a two-day Intellectual Property, IP, symposium on the “The Bane of Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals and Piracy,” in Lagos.
The event brought together experts and government agencies in the forefront of the war to check the abused of intellectual property rights protection.
The symposium was organised by the United States Mission in Nigeria and the American Business Council, in partnership with the Government of Nigeria and members of the private sector.
Chargé FitzGibbon in her remarks at the event highlighted the importance of intellectual property rights protection which enables the innovation and creativity needed to bolster economic growth.
She said, “This is not just an American issue, this is a global issue and as Nigeria moves ahead with goals of diversifying and shifting to a knowledge-based economy, a strong intellectual property rights regime will help attract investment and protect Nigerian ideas and Nigerian businesses.”
She urged stakeholders–government, consumers, and businesses to join forces in ensuring the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. She added, “Nigeria is the most populous country on the African continent, perhaps her greatest asset is the innovation, ingenuity, and creativity of her people. Her global influence manifests through Nollywood movies, music, books, art, and technology. IPR protection affects commerce throughout economies. It provides incentives to invent and creates; protects innovators from unauthorised copying; creates a platform for financial investments in innovation; supports start-ups liquidity and growth through mergers, acquisitions, and IPOs. It makes licensing-based technology business models possible and enables an efficient market for technology transfer and trading in technology and ideas. Strong IPR protections foster growth and creativity within Nigeria.”
Also speaking at the opening of the symposium were Robert Bowman from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training as well as Professor Adebambo Adewopo, a leading intellectual property scholar and the IP Chair at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.
A highlight of the ceremony was a performance by students of the Caro Favored Schools of Ajegunle. Their dramatic sketch was designed to raise awareness among young Nigerian consumers about the importance of trademarks, brands, and the dangers of counterfeit products.
In addition, the opening day of the symposium featured panel discussions, exhibitions, and the screening of the documentary “Fishbone.”
The Nollywood-produced film highlights the menace of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and their effect on both Nigeria citizens and the local economy.
Through economic diplomacy overseas, the United States encourages host-nation governments to establish predictable legal regimes to ensure intellectual property rights can be secured.
Director General of Nigerian Copyrights Commission, NCC, Mr John Asein at the event, said “This is another opportunity for key stake holders in the field of IP to discuss the scourge of counterfeiting and piracy. Nigeria is well endowed with creative talents and has continued to distinguish itself, particularly in the entertainment and knowledge-based industries.
“The Federal Government, under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, has introduced various policies and programmes aimed at tapping into the soft power of the creative sector.
“Taking a cue from the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, and the policy on Ease of Doing Business, the NCC has continued to provide the enabling legal and regulatory environment to grow the sector and guarantee return on investment. I am convinced that this symposium will further set clear agenda for all players in the IP space and promote greater collaboration to boost our human capital and stimulate economic development through better protection and use of the copyright system.
“As we mark 30 years of NCC and celebrate the creative industry, it is no coincidence that the theme for the celebrations is ‘’Changing the Copyright Narrative for Wealth Creation. ‘’ This is an acknowledgement of the place of copyright as a viable tool for employment generation, wealth creation and sustainable national development.”
Also, former Director General, NCC Prof Adewopo, SAN, in his address, noted that “IP has never been more economically and politically important than it is today, particularly in the multidimensional drive towards development. More than before, the global IP system has assumed increasing complexity which in itself calls for a better understanding of the dynamic interaction between IP systems and sustainable development goals.”
“It is now not too far-fetched among policy makers and development experts that a considerable proportion of these lofty goals that the global community has set for itself directly impacts the creativity and innovation of the people geared towards the flourishing of the society, for example, towards viable industries, improved productivity and standard of living, eradicating poverty, among other goals.
“The progress of Nigeria’s development policies can be measured by her commitment to a national IP policy that would recognise the strategic importance of an IPR legal framework the needs and goals of national development. The framework will address the protection and enforcement of IPRs in economic sectors, promotion of creativity and innovation, investment in research and development and encouragement of local knowledge and production at the expense of importation of counterfeit and pirated products.”