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Here's everything you need to know to register and protect your trademark in Nigeria.

First, let's start with...

Understanding Trademarks

A trademark is a word, phrase, design, sign, or symbol that distinguishes your goods or brand from that of another. The look, spelling, or pronunciation of your trademark must be distinctive and easily identified with your business.

When you register a trademark, laws protect the articles (word, phrase, design, sign, or symbol) preventing others from using them, therefore, preventing incidences of piracy.

You can trademark anything aside from the above, be it a letter, numerical, signature, style, colour, device, ticket, or label, depending on your type of business. However, you cannot trademark:

The distinctiveness of your trademark is a crucial factor to consider during a trademark. A mark cannot be trademarked if it lacks any distinctive properties or if the language has become customary in the country of origin or is contrary to public order, according to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

Take, for instance, Wakanow, a travel brand in Nigeria. “Waka” is customary pidgin for “come” or “go,” while “now” is a more commonplace word. On their own, they may not merit a trademark for a travel company, but “Wakanow” makes a valuable trademark due to its distinctiveness.

Example of a Trademark

Types of Trademark

Before registering trademarks, it is essential to distinguish among the different trademarks to find out which is best suited to protect your brand. Failure to understand this could lead to serious mistakes causing lawsuits or, at worst, outright dismissal of your trademark registration.

I’ve grouped these trademarks into general and specific categories:

General Types of Trademarks

Specific Types of Trademarks

Whether general or specific, for a mark to stand as a protective article, it must be classified either as registered or trademarked (more on these later in this guide). This is where familiar symbols like ™, ®, and © come into play.

Let’s discuss these symbols next.

Trademark Symbols

Trademark Symbols - The Difference Between ™ and ®

There are two major kinds of trademark symbols: the ™ (superscript TM) and the ® (R in circle).

The ™

™ stands for “Trademark.” It denotes that the mark attached to the symbol is to be trademarked, but makes no claim as to the registration status.

It's always a good idea to attach ™ to the word or other marks you intend to trademark while applying for registration. This may help to protect the mark until it is registered.

The ®

® shows that a trademark has been registered. Adding the ® to your trademarks protects them from becoming generic and gives you the right to prosecute for trademark infringements. In many jurisdictions, Nigeria included, it is illegal to make use of the ® without an actual registration.

Other symbols

Other types of trademark symbols are the copyright symbol ©, and the record producer/performer symbol ℗, both applying to the creative industry.

The ℠ (superscript SM: service mark) symbol carries the same meaning as ™ but is used for unregistered service marks. The ℠ is dominantly used in the United States, as other jurisdictions apply ™ to both goods and services.

How to Select a Good Mark to Trademark

Before running off to the trademark registry, you may want to have a pre-determined name, slogan, logo, or any other article for trademarking.

So, how do you go about crafting a mark that gets the "thumbs up"?

For one, you can outrightly hire the services of an accredited trademark lawyer to advise on valid business names or marks you can use. (More on trademark lawyers below).

Alternatively, you could craft your business marks yourself (name, logo, slogan, colour, etc.) and propose them for trademarking.

Here are five (5) points to guide you:

Already thinking of the perfect trademark for your business? Fantastic!

Now, let’s proceed to the major focus of this guide:


Registering a Trademark

Registering A Trademark in Nigeria

Trademark registration in Nigeria is governed by the following relevant laws:

  1. The Trade Marks Act 1965
  2. The Trade Marks Regulations 1967
  3. Trade Marks Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 1990
  4. The Merchandise Mark Act, CAP M10 LFN 2004
  5. Trade Marks Act, CAP T13 LFN 2004

Other laws containing trademark provisions are:

  1. The Trademark Malpractice (Miscellaneous Offence), CAP T12 LFN 2004
  2. The Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act 2015

Trademarks are registered in Nigeria through the Trademarks, Patents and Design Registry — a registry under the Commercial Law Department of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.

Step-by-Step Procedure for Registering a Trademark in Nigeria

There are five (5) major steps involved in registering a trademark in Nigeria. These are:

Let’s dive into the details:

The first step required of you in registering your trademark is to conduct a preliminary search for the availability of your proposed mark. (You must have done your homework and decided on the article(s) you intend to trademark. I covered that in the first section of this guide.)

In Nigeria, you would require the services of an accredited trademark agent to examine the official records of the Trademarks Patents and Designs Registry through their online portal. This service attracts a fee (usually around ₦33,000 ($80) to ₦50,000 ($120) depending on the agent) because only accredited agents have access to search the records and they pay for conducting such searches.

But since you’re reading this guide, here are a few strategies you can use to perform simple trademark searches yourself before deciding on hiring a search agent:

Please note that these suggestions mostly apply to IT or internet-based businesses.

Now, if your self-searches do not yield results or self-search does not apply to your class of business, hiring an accredited agent is the best alternative.

This search is conducted by an accredited agent through the official records to ensure the proposed trademark does not infringe on existing trademarks or trademarks filed for registration. Usually, agents conduct searches through the registry’s online portal, but searches can also be done in person at the registry’s office in Abuja.

The search must be conducted at the appropriate trademark class, meaning if a single trademark is to be registered in multiple classes, the search must be conducted in each of the classes. (See trademark classification in section 4 of this guide.)

Once a completed search proves your proposed trademark doesn’t conflict with existing or filed trademarks, your agent will clear you and the application process can begin.

Step 2: Trademark Application

Also known as “filing,” this process starts with submitting your (searched) articles for trademarking at the registry and receiving an Acknowledgement Letter from the trademark registrar. The letter contains your application details and that of the mark to be registered. It is usually issued twenty-four (24) hours from submission.

It’s important to note that the letter issued here is only an acknowledgement of the application and NOT an acceptance of the trademark. The trademark can still be refused registration even after a successful search.

Trademark filing is usually done online by accredited agents via the online portal of the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry. Further payments are to be made at this stage for processing the application. These are called filing fees.

Once your trademark has been filed, buckle up for the moment of truth.

Step 3: Acceptance or Refusal

The acceptance or refusal of a filed mark depends on the discovery of infringement on existing trademark(s). Here, the registry decides on whether to accept or reject your filed mark.

Where the filed mark is cleared for registration, the registry will accept, register the trademark, and issue you an Acceptance Letter. But when the mark is found to conflict with existing trademarks or is a mark that cannot be registered, a Refusal Letter will be issued.

If you get a Refusal Letter, I suggest you plan a better mark and discuss it with a trademark lawyer before reapplying.

A trademark may be registered either plainly (black and white) or in colour. When a trademark is registered in colour, the protection afforded is limited to the colour(s) registered. A plain (black and white) registration protects the trademark at all times.

The entire decision process takes 4-6 weeks.

Step 4: Publication

Once your trademark has been registered, it will be processed for publication in the Nigerian Trademark Journal. Publicized trademarks are also listed on the publication page of the Trademarks, Patents, and Designs Registry. The process usually takes thirty-two (32) weeks or more.

This publication contains full details about the trademark and its proprietor. Just think of it as a mini advertisement screaming, “Say hello to the newest trademark in town!”

Once your trademark is published, any person or organisation who considers the trademark a conflict with theirs (or any pre-existing trademark) has a two-month window to protest to the registry to stop such registration. They can do this by filing a "notice of opposition."

If such opposition comes up, the registry notifies and asks you to respond with a counter-statement. Your statement must defend your mark and explain why you are entitled to it.

The response window is one (1) month from receiving the notice. Failure to respond within this period is deemed an abandonment of the trademark application.

In a situation when you provide a counter-statement to the notice of opposition, the registry will make up a tribunal to resolve the conflict among the contending parties. If resolved in your favour, the Certificate of Trademark Registration will be issued to you.

However, if there are no oppositions after two (2) months of publication, you can apply for and get your trademark certificate.

Step 5: Certification

Once you’ve made it to this stage of the registration process, you can very well pop a bottle of champagne.

A trademark certificate is a license that declares you the legal owner of a registered trademark. It gives you full rights to use the trademark to the excursion of any other entity and confers rights to prosecute for infringements.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Now, you’re thinking, “Ok, how much would these cost me?” Good question! We cover that in the next subsection.

Cost of registering a Trademark

Cost of Trademark Registration in Nigeria

The cost of registering a trademark includes all the fees paid at various stages of the process; specifically the search, filing, certification, and professional fees paid to a trademark lawyer or accredited agent handling the registration.

Considering that fees vary from agent to agent, the total cost of registering a trademark range from ₦105,000 ($250) to ₦290,000 ($700).

Another factor that influences the cost of registration is the number of trademark classes a mark is registered into. The average cost of registration applies to only one class (called First Class). However, if you wish to register your trademark in more classes, additional charges will apply per class. This range from ₦83,000 ($200) to ₦124,000 ($300) per class, again depending on your agent.

A third influential factor is whether the trademark is owned by a local or international organisation or by an individual. Foreign-owned trademarks attract higher fees compared to local-owned ones.

You are at liberty to process a trademark registration up to the Acceptance stage for a start, intending to complete the certification stage later.

I recommend engaging a single agent or lawyer to manage the entire registration process. This will allow you to bargain for better individual fees and maybe, if you're lucky, get discounts.

Duration of Trademark Registration

The duration for registering a trademark in Nigeria is usually 12 to 18 months when there are no oppositions. Certification may, however, take a longer period when there are oppositions to a registered trademark.

Here’s an estimated breakdown of the timeframe:

Basic requirements for Trademark Registration

You will be required to provide the following for trademark registration:

Where to Register Trademarks in Nigeria

The office of the trademark registry is at the Trademark, Patents and Design Registry, Commercial Law Department, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Area 1, Garki, Abuja. There are no other branches of the registry nationwide.

Since you might need the help of accredited agents to commerce registration at the Registrar, many accredited agents offer full registration services at their offices scattered nationwide.

All you need to do is find and research selected accredited agents, run negotiations through each one and appoint the agent you think offers the best services at the best rates.

You can find accredited agents using the online portal of the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry, conducting a simple Google search, or speaking with legal practitioners in your network.

Lifespan and Renewal of Trademarks

A registered trademark is valid for seven (7) years from registration and can be renewed after this period.

An application for the renewal of a trademark registration must be made three (3) months before the expiration of a current license. Each renewed trademark lasts for fourteen (14) years.

The requirements for renewing a trademark are:

Assignment of Trademarks

Imagine the need arises for a close associate of yours or business partner to leverage your trademark for a specific period. Imagine that the use of your trademark for some time was a requirement for a partnership deal you’re working on. What do you do in this situation?

The law allows a trademark titleholder to assign such trademark to another person or entity for usage for a while.

To do this, either you (the assignor) or the other entity (the assignee) may apply at the trademark registry for the recording of such trademark rights or title in favour of the assignee for a specified period.

However, the assignee should apply for this recording themselves. This is because the holder of a trademark right may enforce such a right against any infringing third party.

To assign a trademark, you would need:

Revocation or Cancellation of Trademark

Simply registering a trademark doesn’t mean you can shove it under the bed for all eternity.

Sections 31, 38, and 56 of the Nigerian Trade Mark Act empower the registry or a court to cancel a registered trademark on grounds of non-use or applications challenging the validity of a trademark.

Below are the grounds for cancellation of a registered trademark:

This is why I cannot emphasize enough the importance of thoroughly researching and understanding your mark before creation or registration. I recommend you put your mark to use before and after registration to avoid trademark revocation for non-use.

Should you ever face trademark cancellation proceedings, it would be wise to engage the services of an intellectual property rights lawyer to handle your case.

Self Registration vs Using a Trademark Lawyer

A trademark lawyer (also known as accredited agents here in Nigeria) is a lawyer who has expertise in trademark laws, designs, and practice. Their role is to provide legal advice and assistance in fields relating to trademark laws and practice.

A trademark lawyer must be an authorized lawyer or an agent accredited by the Trademark, Patents and Design Registry.

Now, whether the appointment of a trademark lawyer is necessary is debatable.

In theory, any layperson to register a trademark can apply themselves without the help of a trademark lawyer. However, certain rules regarding trademark registration in Nigeria make it impossible to skip the services of a lawyer.

For example, only accredited agents may conduct trademark searches using the records of the Trademark Patents and Design Registry. Furthermore, the Power of Attorney appointing the trademark agent remains a required document for performing actions like trademark registration, renewal, and assignment.

As discussed earlier, it is entirely possible to conduct a trademark search yourself without the help of an agent. You would not get access to the registry’s record, though. Aside from that, you would require an agent to forge ahead with the registration.

So yes, using a lawyer gets the upper hand.

But, hey! There is a lot to benefit from appointing a trademark lawyer. Let’s see those quickly:

Why Appoint a Trademark Lawyer?

Now that we’ve seen why appointing a trademark lawyer is essential, we must measure the benefits of registering your trademark against the risk of not doing so.


Registered and Unregistered Trademarks

Registered and Unregistered Trademarks

Benefits of Registering a Trademark

The most obvious advantage of registering your trademark is, of course, protecting your business mark from infringement. But there's more. Here’s why trademark registration is a good idea:

Next, we explore the

Risks Associated with Using Unregistered Trademarks

It’s not uncommon for businesses to proceed using unregistered trademarks. Many big brands and startups in Nigeria operate with unregistered marks.

While it is entirely possible to start a business in Nigeria without registering your marks, the associated risks, potential roadblocks, and liabilities cannot be denied.

Here are reasons why you might want to avoid using unregistered trademarks:

This brings us to the next subsection.

Famous/Well-Known Trademarks

A famous or well-known trademark is one that enjoys special treatment given its widespread recognition or reputation among the public.

Well-known (foreign) trademarks enjoy infringement protection in most countries, whether they are registered in that region or not. The holders of unregistered well-known trademarks in Nigeria can sue for trademark infringement of any form, even though holders of other unregistered marks cannot.

These protections are important for famous marks because they are a big target for pirates.

Therefore, an unregistered trademark can earn the full protection of a registered trademark if it attains the status of a well-known mark.

While I recommend registering your trademark from the onset of your business, the ultimate decision to register or not is yours. Use it wisely.

That said, we move to the various classes of trademarks in Nigeria. If you desire a trademark registration free of complications, this section is for you.


Classification of Trademark

Classification of Trademarks

Trademark classifications differentiate groups of trademarked goods and services with similar nomenclature from another group.

To ensure international uniformity in the classification of trademarks worldwide, the Nice Classification (NCL) was drawn up from the 1957 Nice Agreement to establish a classification of goods and services to register trademarks.

45 different trademark classes were created as a result, with Goods listed from classes 1 to 34 and Services completing classes 35 to 45.

A new edition of the Nice Classification is published annually since 2013. Below, I summarize the 45 classes of Trademark according to the 2021 (11th) edition of the NCL:

Goods Classes

Services Classes

Finally...

You can register your trademark under one or more of the classes listed above. Registration into any class attracts a fee, as earlier explained. Registration into multiple classes would attract extra costs per class. (See cost estimates in section 2.2 above.)

I recommend you thoroughly discuss with an accredited agent to understand the class(es) your trademark(s) fall into before registration. Once a trademark is registered in a class, it cannot be undone.


"Diligent research" is the watchword when it comes to trademarking in Nigeria. Use it at each stage of your process: from crafting the letters that would eventually represent your brand to doubling checking your marks even after publication.

Beyond registration, look at ways you can monetize your trademark. It is an asset after all and can be worth a lot of money in the future. Engage an intellectual property lawyer to help with this.

Yes, registering a trademark in Nigeria is tedious. Nurturing it after that is no fun, either. But the potential rewards it generates can pay off for a lifetime.

What are your thoughts on or experiences with trademark registration in Nigeria? I would love to know in the comments. Also, if you need clarification regarding any aspect of trademarking in Nigeria, drop your inquiries; I’d be happy to assist.

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