Mathematical Formulas and Intellectual Property

© Tyler Olson |

Intellectual Property offers a broad range of protection to creators, authors, and inventors, through copyright, patents, trademarks and design registration.

One popular question we often receive on NLIPW is whether you can protect a mathematical formula using patent or copyright law in Nigeria.


While you cannot patent a math formula in Nigeria, you may however be able to patent the application of the mathematical formula. What this means is that if you invent something using the formula, the process by which the invention is made and/or the invention itself may be eligible for patent protection.

What cannot be patented is software whose only purpose is to perform mathematical operations e.g. software that coverts one set of numbers to another will not be patentable. If the software converts one set of numbers to another creating rubber, it can be patented.

Relevant Law: Section 1(5) of the Patents and Designs Act

“Principles and Discoveries of a scientific nature are not inventions for the purposes of this Act.”


Copyright applies to original works of authorship. The important step is that the work must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Although Nigerian Courts are untested on the issue of copyrighting math formulas or problems, it is important to remember that you cannot copyright an idea or concept only the way it’s expressed. You also cannot copyright a fact e.g. two plus two equals four. This means that if you express your math formula in an article or book, copyright protection will extend to the article or book as it is an original work of authorship. Through copyright, you will be able to restrict the copying of the mathematical publication but not the mathematical formulas contained in the publicaiton.

Relevant Law: Section 1(1)(a) of the Copyright Act, Section 1(2) of the Copyright Act, and Section 15 of the Copyright Act.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About Bob Aroture 560 Articles
Bob is a Senior Editor and Content Development Manager at Nigerian Law Intellectual Property Watch. He holds a BS degree, with a major in biochemistry. He works directly with the Newsroom Team. His focus areas are technology and innovation, and pharmaceutical technology. Email: