Encouraging Nigeria’s government to adopt legal protection for geographical indications is one of several ways the country can help to increase the value of local indigenous products, says Uche Nwokocha, Head of IP and Partner at Aluko & Oyebode.
“Companies that haven’t embraced innovation are now becoming extinct. If you don’t change, you get left behind.”
These are the words of Uche Nwokocha, Head of IP and Partner at Aluko & Oyebode (Nigeria), and a member of INTA’s Board of Directors.
“Nigeria’s current policy goal of having a sustainable international market for products of Nigerian origin is expected to drive change forward on IP and GI legislation.”
For brands that are brave enough to embrace change and view innovation as an everyday requirement, the future is bright, she says.
“And that’s what INTA has embraced and is championing,” she adds.
“Embracing Innovation and Change” is the third pillar of INTA’s 2018‒2021 Strategic Plan, and includes positioning the Association as a thought leader on opportunities arising from innovation and technology.
One clear example of this is INTA’s Brands and Innovation Committee, which is seeking to build and strengthen ties with technology-based groups.
Ms. Nwokocha likens the Association to her “second family,” stating that she has not missed an Annual Meeting since attending her first one, in Washington, D.C., in 2002. She has previously chaired INTA’s Anticounterfeiting Committee’s Middle East, Africa and South Asia Subcommittee.
This year, she began serving as a member of the Association’s Board of Directors—helping to advocate for global trademark protection and other policy priorities, and to implement INTA’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan.
In her day job, Ms. Nwokocha represents global brands including The Coca-Cola Company, GSK, and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, to mention a few.
Many of these brands suffer at the hands of fake goods in Nigeria, she explains, and this is why her firm formed an anticounterfeiting department, as well as the Anti-Counterfeiting Collaboration, Nigeria, a forum in which regulators, brand owners, law practitioners, and the press can discuss the issues companies are facing.
Nigeria’s laws are not yet in conformity with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), due in part to the need for updated IP legislation. For example, geographical indications (GIs) are not available in the country (despite being available under TRIPS), although legislation on GIs has been pending for the past 10 years.
“We need to look at legislation to import this aspect of TRIPS,” says Ms. Nwokocha.
The country’s current policy goal of having a sustainable international market for products of Nigerian origin is also expected to drive the change forward.
Ms. Nwokocha emphasized the need to develop initiatives and awareness-raising activities with key stakeholders in order to explain the value of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions and to ensure adequate protection and enforcement for rights holders.
INTA 2018, INTA, Uche Nwokocha, Aluko & Oyebode, Africa, counterfeits, innovation, brands, GIs, geographical indications,