1. As an inventor you cannot withhold details of your invention in order to prevent the public from copying it.
There is a very common misconception about patents which makes some inventors in Nigeria shy away from getting patents on their invention. They assume that because of the legal requirement to fully disclose details about their invention in the specification of claims, plans and drawings, that their invention is automatically at risk of being copied by the public.
One thing to keep in mind is that a patent is a trade-off of sorts i.e. while the grant of a patent (depending on the claims) gives the inventor the exclusive right to exclude others from making, importing, selling or using the invention, the inventor in return must fully disclose the details of the invention to the public who will only be able to use the patent with the consent of the inventor or after the expiration of 20 years from the date of filing a complete patent application.
People who have this fear of publicly detailing their invention also forget that if the invention is easy to reverse-engineer, by not obtaining a patent, they put the invention at a bigger risk of being copied and they may end up with no legal protection when the invention is copied.
2. You cannot publicly disclose details of your invention prior to filing your application
One of the tricky things about obtaining a patent is that while you must make full disclosure on your application in the specifications of claims and drawings, you cannot publicly disclose details of the invention prior to filing at the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry in Nigeria. One exception to the non-public disclosure requirement is where an inventor exhibits his invention in an official exhibition within a period of six months preceding the filing of a patent application.
If the inventor has filed an international application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, one advantage he has is that he will be issued an international search report (ISR) which the registry in Nigeria will consider as evidence of prior art.
3. Ideas are not patentable but there is no requirement to have an actual prototype
One of the biggest misconception about patents relates to the patentability of ideas. While ideas are not patentable, an inventor need not have made the invention but the patent specification must contain a detailed written description of the invention which must be adequate to enable one skilled in the art to which it pertains to reduce it to practice. The inventor must make clear what the invention actually is and must describe how to make and use the invention.
4. You cannot get a patent on a plant in Nigeria
Unlike the United States, Kenya and South Africa, Nigeria does not grant patents in respect of plants, animal varieties, biological processes for the production of plants or animals (except microbiological processes and their products) or principles and discoveries of a scientific nature.
5. Having a patent in a foreign country does not mean your invention is also protected in Nigeria
Each country owns their own patents as patents are territorial in nature. As an inventor if you register a patent in a foreign country but do not register it in Nigeria, you cannot sue for infringement of the patent in Nigeria.
If an inventor has filed an international application under the PCT, the Trademarks, Patents and Design registry in Nigeria often relies on the ISR allowing the inventor to save on search fees.
If you are interested in filing a patent in Nigeria, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was originally published on June 3, 2013. The article continues to be relevant for persons seeking to file patent applications in Nigeria. The article is intended to provide general information about the subject matter. Professional legal advice should be sought about specific circumstances.