Friday, 21 June 2013

The Legal Profession in an Emerging Economy: A Conference Report on all things IP-related (1)

The 7th Annual Business Law Conference of the Section on Business Law (SBL) held at Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos (17th – 19th June, 2013) with the theme “The Legal Profession in an Emerging Economy".
The SBL is one of the sections/fora of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).

Within the SBL are Committees dealing with various aspects of business and commercial law practice. Of interest to this blog and its readers at this year’s conference are topics discussed at the Committee on Intellectual Property (IP) and the Committee on Travel, Tourism and Hospitality.

The Travel, Tourism and Hospitality had two Law Professors discuss Global Trends, Options and Challenges for Indigenous Art and culture and Repositioning Indigenous and Traditional IP in modern market-places.

At the Committee on IP, the theme was “Intellectual Property Issues in an Emerging Economy”. The IP Committee also discussed administration of industrial property in Nigeria and the commercialisation of IP in an emerging economy. Guest Speaker, Mrs Funke Araba (Knowledge Transfer Consulting) delivered a powerful paper on the theme, "IP issues in an emerging economy" and explained why IP is important for the growth of any emerging economy. According to Mrs Araba, IP can be used as a tool for transforming human well being and can increase GDP.
Mrs Funke Araba-Lashmann
Examples were cited of some emerging economies like India, China, Singapore etc which transformed from economies bases on tangible assets in the manufacturing plants to knowledge-driven economy and information society based on intellectual capital generated by researchers and industries.
Mrs Araba stated that IP can be developed by emerging economies through importation. Foreign technologies may be “imported” through Technology Transfer or Turnkey Agreements depending on the recipient’s ability to use and adapt the technology. She however cautions that Turnkey Agreements are usually not favourable to developing countries with low technological capacity as the resultant projects are not easy to maintain without the Technical Partner.

Mrs Araba concluded by presenting startling statistics on the number of patent applications received at the Patent Registry, Abuja in the last 13 years (2000 – 2012). Of the 7,833 patents granted, only 11.1% (868) were local patents, the remaining 88.9% (6,965) were foreign patents. She observed that when compared with other emerging economies like India (15,271 local patents, 50,255 foreign patents) and China (2,238,428 local patents and 438,943 foreign patents), the patent filing statistics for Nigeria becomes even more alarming and is due to lack of inventive culture in the tertiary and research institutes.

Other IP issues for emerging economies raised at the IP Committee include: Who has the primary responsibility to develop proactive IP strategy? How many Nigerian universities have IP policy document? Why are trademarks and copyright, the most valued IP elements among Nigerian enterprises?

For our readers, what are the patent filing statistics in your country? Better or worse than Nigeria? What are the most valued IP elements in your country?

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