Conducting a trademark search is important for businesses seeking to register trademarks in Nigeria because it allows them determine whether or not another business is already using a trademark that is identical or similar to their proposed mark.
Currently, the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry’s online portal system allows registered users to pay for searches but the actual search must be manually and physically conducted at the Registry. You cannot search the Registry’s trademark records online although you can conduct informal searches using the Internet or independent online trademark services.
In addition to searching the Registry’s records for registered trademarks that are related to the type of business/products in question or are in the same international class, businesses seeking to register a trademark in Nigeria are encouraged to search domain names being used by web-based businesses in Nigeria and to search for unregistered trademarks using marketplace resources.
It is important to search for unregistered trademarks because even if a trademark is unregistered, its existence could prevent your business from using your proposed mark or subsequently registered trademark. In certain cases, an action for passing off can be sustained.
In most cases, a search will reveal identical or similar marks but this may not automatically prevent a business from using the mark. The question that is often raised is whether the mark is intended to be used in the same or similar market as the prior mark. If it is intended to be used in a different market, it may be fine for another company to use the mark.
This article was originally published by NLIPW on May 8, 2014. The article continues to be relevant to filing trademark applications in Nigeria and conducting searches. The article is intended to provide general information about the subject matter. Professional legal advice should be sought about specific circumstances.