Nigeria: Understanding Trademarks And How It Differs From Trade Secrets And Patents In Nigeria

Last Updated: 17 April 2018
Article by Davidson Oturu

Trademarks, trade secrets and patents are different forms of intellectual property that are capable of being protected in Nigeria. However, non-professionals tend to find a few of these terms a bit confusing. A client may walk up to his attorney with an invention in his hand and say "I want to trademark this product". Well, it is important to note that inventions are not capable of being protected as trademarks. This leads to several questions such as "what then can you trademark"? "What is a patent"? "Can trade secrets be protected and are they registrable"?

I will proceed to briefly consider these concepts as this may aid one in understanding their differences. The first concept I will consider in this article will be trademarks.


The Trade Marks Act 1965 of Nigeria defines a trademark as "a mark used or proposed to be used in relation to goods for the purpose of indicating, or so as to indicate, a connection in the course of trade between the goods and some person having the right either as proprietor or as registered user to use the mark whether with our without any indication of the identity of the person, and means, in relation to the certification trade mark, a mark registered or deemed to have been registered under Section 43 of this Act1".

It is my view that the above definition is rather convoluted and so we will adopt the definition given by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) which defines a trademark as a sign, logo or word that is used to identify certain goods and services as those produced or provided by a specific person or organisation2.

Based on the foregoing definitions, it is evident that the primary aim of a trademark is to protect a person's goods and services. This will also prevent those who do not have the rights to a trademark from using a similar mark such that it is likely to deceive or cause confusion in the course of trade in relation to any goods in respect of which it is registered.

How do you identify a trademark?

A trademark can be a combination of colours or can be made up of single colours. It can be a word, a combination of words, numerals, drawings, abbreviations, drawings or shapes. Examples of familiar trademarks include BMW, Coca-Cola, 7Up, YSL, MTN, 7/11, the Apple logo, the Shell logo etc.

Regardless of whatever form or shape the trademark takes, it must be distinctive and must be capable of distinguishing the goods or services with which it is used. Thus a name that simply describes the nature of the goods and services that are offered may not constitute a valid trademark. For example, "detergent" cannot be trademarked. However, although a given trademark may not be distinctive from the outset, it may acquire distinctiveness through long and extensive use.

Trademarks have multiple purposes as it enables consumers distinguish different products or services. It also serves as a marketing tool and can help the owner of the mark enhance its brand and reputation.

Other than these obvious purposes, trademarks can be very valuable assets when they become well known. For example, the "Google" trademark is considered as one of the most valued trademark on the planet and is worth an estimated value of $44.3 billion. The "Microsoft" trademark is not far behind as it is valued at $42.8 billion3. Thus not only can holders of these trademarks licence them to third parties who may want to be identified with the mark but the owner of the mark can equally use it to secure a credit facility from financial institutions.

Protection of trademarks

It is advisable to register trademarks as they are territorial rights. This means that they must be registered in each country where the proprietor would want them to enjoy protection as except a trademark is protected in a particular country, it can be freely used by third parties.

Trademark protection is also usually limited to specific goods and services (unless the trademark in question is a well-known or famous trademark). This means that the same trademark can be used by different companies as long as it is used for dissimilar goods or services. The exception to this is where the mark is a well-known or famous trademark. An example of a well-known mark is "Coca-Cola". I daresay it will be difficult or impossible for an applicant to successfully register a trademark for a pair of trainers and brand them with the "Coca-Cola" logo! This is due to the fact that it is a well-known mark and no Trademarks registry will be willing to register such a trademark.

By registering his trademark, the proprietor is given the exclusive rights to use the trademark to identify his goods or services and can also prevent third parties from using an identical trademark for similar goods or services.

How is a trademark registered?

An application to register trademark must be filed with the trademarks registry at the ministry of Trade and Investment. The application must contain a clear reproduction of the sign filed for registration, including any colours, forms, or three-dimensional features. The application must also contain a list of goods or services to which the sign would apply.

The sign must fulfill certain conditions in order to be protected as a trademark or another type of mark:- it must be distinctive, so that consumers can distinguish it as identifying a particular product, as well as from other trademarks identifying other products;

  • it must not be deceptive or likely to mislead the consumers as to the nature or quality of the product;
  • it should not be contrary to public order or morality;
  • it should not be identical or confusingly similar to an existing trademark. This may be determined through search and examination by the national office, or by the opposition of third parties who claim similar or identical rights.

How long is a registered trademark protected for?

A trademark is registered for an initial period of seven (7) years but may be renewed from time to time for a period of fourteen (14) years4.


[1] Section 1, Trade Marks Act 1965

[2] World Intellectual Property (WIPO), 'DL 001 – Primer on Intellectual Property' (2018)

[3] Forbes, the 10 most valuable trademarks (2018) (

[4] Section 23 (1) of the Trademarks Act

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Practice Guides
by Mondaq Advice Centres
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions