This week’s IP Lawyers Speakers Series guest is Barrister Rejoice Oluwadamilare Alabi, a legal practitioner, a puzzle creator, author; and a chartered mediator and conciliator. He is presently a Managing Partner at Egbaaibon & Alabi LP and volunteer counsel with the Osun State University Legal Clinic. Barrister Alabi was called to the Nigerian Bar in November 2016.
Q: Kindly elucidate on your academic background and qualifications
I attended Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State and I graduated in April 2015 with a second class upper division. I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Bagauda (Kano Campus) in December 2015 where I finished with a first class degree. I was called to the bar in November 2016 and have since been in active legal practice. I also hold a professional certification in Alternative Dispute Resolution from the Institute of Chartered Mediators & Conciliators (ICMC), Nigeria; and an Employability Skills Certification from Poise Graduate Finishing Academy (PGFA), Lekki, Lagos.
Q: What’s your view on Intellectual Property Law?
Intellectual Property Law (IPL) is the bundle of laws that protects the inanimate or intangible rights in creative works such as art, music, films, designs, scientific/technological inventions etc. IPL is the driving force of top capitalist economies who leverage on the ingenious creations of the human mind by first vesting rights in the creators of such works and by providing a framework for the protection of such rights to harness maximum profits. Just earlier this week, I met with a Professor of Law from South Africa and he told me that seeds in SA are genetically modified and cannot be replanted. This is an aspect of IPL that offers protection and profitability to crop developers. A tech company recently created “Sophia”- a humanoid (human robot) which/who can reason, talk and act like a human being. Incredibly, a country has offered the robot citizenship! The protection of such sophisticated technologies is the essence of IP Laws. In summary, I see IPL as the engine room of innovation and sustainable development in every field of life. The World Intellectual Property Organization has been doing a lot to regulate international IP treaties and monitor the implementation of national IP laws.
Q: When did you first hear about intellectual property, copyright, trademarks, patents, designs?
I first time I learned about IPL was in 2010/2011 as a fresher while reading through the faculty handbook. However, I had deeper knowledge of the subject during course registration for my 400L. The common perception at the time was that IPL was a difficult course (or maybe with “difficult” lecturers) where students don’t get A’s. I saw that as a challenge and I ended up taking the course with about 12 other students in a class of 350. My interest in the course led me to research on IPL for my final year long essay, specifically on “The Legal Regime for the Protection of New Plant Varieties in Nigeria” where interestingly I scored an A.
Q: Is copyright being taught in your school?
IPL is still being offered as a 4th year restricted elective in my alma mater.
Q: Are there classes encouraging innovation or other programs in the school you graduated from?
I believe there are. Students are mandated to take special elective courses outside their field. Again, there is a plethora of entrepreneurial and innovation workshops organized every semester by departments, fellowships and other corporate bodies where students can hone their innovative skills.
Q: How can the government fight piracy and theft of intellectual property?
Despite the efforts of the Nigerian government to fight piracy and other intellectual property rights infringement vide legislations and regulatory bodies such as the Copyright Commission, piracy still remains a hydra-headed monster that is eating up the Nigerian creative sector and economy. The Government cannot do this alone and therefore I propose that individuals and organisations that engage in the creation or use of intellectual properties should retain the services of IP lawyers and legal service firms who would ensure that proper steps are taken to guarantee protection against avoidable infringements. The Government should also strengthen policies and ensure the maximum enforcement of IP legislations.
Q: What are your thoughts on how to prevent piracy of Nollywood movies etc.?
Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry ranks as one of the largest movie industries in the world but it is still largely bedevilled by piracy and other copyright infringements. My take is that there should be more synergy between Nollywood stakeholders and the government to stamp out this menace. The deployment of protective technologies should also be embraced.
Q: Would you love to practice as an Intellectual Property Lawyer? Give reasons
The answer is yes. And actually, I am already practising as an IP lawyer. I am currently working on a case of copyright infringement at the Federal High Court, Lagos involving two creative artists and an agency of the State Government. One reason why I embrace the practice of IPL, apart from the fact that I studied it at undergraduate level, is that I am myself a creative person with some creative works such as hybrid puzzles and books to my credit. So I understand how strenuous the creative process can be and what it means to have your work copied and exploited for profits by another person.
Q: Kindly give advice to students who are willing to go into Intellectual Property Law
I encourage law students to study IPL and embrace it as an area of practice or specialization because it is a profitable aspect of law. Most IP briefs come from high-end clients who are usually willing to pay for services rendered towards the protection of their works. Again, IP is a developing area of law in Nigeria in which one can readily carve a niche for himself. Most top-tier law firms in Nigeria have an IP department and a knowledge of IPL will be an advantage to get into those firms.
Thank you for taking time to talk to us and we wish you all the best.