- Message from the Intellectual Property Law Partner
- Domain Name Branding: The Expectations of Intellectual Property Right Owners
- Registry News – Workshop – “Building a 21st Century Trade Mark Registry in Nigeria”
- New Journal is out
Year 2009 has been a year with many intrigues; ups and downs particularly in the economic sector. In spite of this, we have recorded some achievements in the year.
The firm’s Intellectual Property Law Department continues to increase in volume. We received a record number of instructions from clients and partner law firms all over the world. Our relationship with our partner firms also increased throughout the continents of the world.
Besides the effective filing system employed by our firm towards meeting client’s needs in Nigeria, our firm also partners with counsel in West Africa and sub-Saharan Africa towards providing excellent services to our clients who intend to protect their Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in both the OAPI and ARIPO countries.
The Intellectual Property Law Department of Aluko & Oyebode with the support of International Trademark Association (INTA) and Anti-Counterfeiting Collaboration (“ACC”), Nigeria successfully organized an anti-counterfeiting and enforcement roundtable – a capacity building workshop for our regulators in Nigeria. Through the Anti-Counterfeiting Collaboration (“ACC”), the firm had always made its voice known by coordinating the activities of brand owners towards the protection of their IPRs. The Roundtable in October had in attendance brand owners and the regulatory agencies brainstorming on the ways to further protect their products and brands from piracy and counterfeiting.
The firm is committed to providing the best services for its clients all over the world and leading the Intellectual Property Law Practice in Nigeria and West Africa by building on the successes recorded in the past and preparing for the future in all genres of intellectual property law.
From me and on behalf of Aluko & Oyebode, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous year 2010.
Segun Aluko, Associate
The human need to share information consistently has piqued the interest of inventors and innovators in our society. This had led to various inventions and development of gadgets and machines. The internet proves the choicest of all inventions with its immense capacity for exchange of information all over the world.
Wikipedia, the internet Encyclopedia, defined internet as a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standardized Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP), serves billion of users. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private and public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope that are linked by copper wires, fibre-optics, wireless connections and other technologies.  The concept of what is today known as “internet” evolved through different stages after its inception in the early 1970s consequent upon the research of the US top government agencies to interconnect computers for academic and government purposes.
The computers are identified by the Internet Protocols (IP) which are a set of binary numbers assigned to be used through the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) for networking and communication on the internet. This networking is usually done through routing or what is known as “packet switching”. Through this, information are exchanged through the strike of keys on the person’s personal computer and within some few seconds, responses are coordinated from many if not all internet servers all over the world.
The domain name system (DNS) was created for the purpose of identification by coordinating the activities of domain names on the internet. Domain name is an identification label that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control in the Internet, based on the Domain Name System (DNS). Domain names are issued by the internet registrars  known as the domain owners. Domain names are classified into different levels. The Top-Level Domain (TLD) is the first and top level of the DNS. The TLD is sub-divided into Generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) and the Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). The gTLDs are categorised into seven representing different categories of names. They include; GOV, EDU, COM, ORG, MIL, NET, and INT. These domains are the major sets of domains under which other domains are registered by the registrants. They are governed directly under the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which determine the terms and conditions with cooperation of the individual national registry.
Other levels of the domain name are the second-level domain and lower-level domain. These are directly below the top-level domain in hierarchy. They appear directly to the left of the top-level domains and other top-level domains.
Domain names are the foundations on which a website (like a house or commercial building) can be built. Second, the highest “quality” domain names, like sought-after real estate, tend to carry significant value, usually due to their online brand-building potential, use in advertising, search engine optimization, and many other criteria. Based on this, a domain name may be subject to abuse.
Domain names represents a right which can be possessed or owned but its nature in this sense cannot be likened to other rights known to law. It is more of a licence . Moreover, the registrant may have a domain name of at most, sixty-four (64) characters within the ccTLD among the other level domains including the third-level domains (3TLDs) and fourth-level domains (4TLDs).
From observation, it appears NIRA is only empowered by the conglomeration of all members thus making it the Nigerian Internet Registry, and other procedures and regulatory policies issued by the Association. Then certain issues beg for answers in the regulation of domain names in the internet community. First, what kind of rights does a domain name owner or registrant has in the domain name? It appears the best the registrant may lay claim to is merely a licence which s/he shall hold for a renewable period of one to five years. In the NIRA Registrant Agreement (Article 7.2), “… Registration of a domain name does not create any proprietary right for the registrant, a registrant’s registrar or any other person in any name used as a domain name or in any domain name registration, and the entry of a domain name in the registry in the “WHOIS” database shall not be construed as evidence of ownership of the domain name registered as a domain name…” Therefore, the right of the domain name owner may after all not be proprietary; rather it is possessory, which may be lost due to non-use of the domain name within a short time.
Phishing by internet users is also a case in point that requires immediate attention by promulgation of relevant laws. Since NIRA may only investigate allegations relating to the ccTLD, the use of the registrant’s domain name on another gTLDs or ccTLDs may infringe the registrant’s brand and cause him an untold hardship and loss of revenue or goodwill. The review of Intellectual Property legislation is hereby advocated. Moreover, the stakeholders particularly in the internet circle and the Intellectual Property Law lawyers need to sensitize the public and fashion out ways of building regulations and appropriate policies that will curb acts of infringers and uphold the rights of domain name owners in Nigeria and other registrants on the other gTLDs.
In conclusion, the absence of legislations on protection of domain names in Nigeria and other related intellectual property rights shows that Nigeria still has a long way to go in building policies and institutions regarding protection of these intellectual property rights. We suggest that protection in this area of law and business can only come from active legal practice and participation of stakeholders. The Trademarks Registry, the Patents and Designs Registry, the Copyright Commission, the National Office for Technological Acquisition and Promotion and other relevant organisations need to work together in this regard. The need to protect domain names is not only due to internet usage but the brands of the domain name holders and the attendant goodwill.
Trade Marks Registry recently conducted a sensitization workshop with the theme “Building a 21st Century Trade Mark Registry in Nigeria”. The workshop was held in Lagos, Kano and Aba between December 8 and 14, 2009.
The Trade Mark Journal Vol. No.2 Vol. 4 datedDecember 7 2009 was unveiled at the Lagos Workshop.
Our firm had procured copies of the Journal and shall update clients of the developments in their Trademarks Applications.
 Wikipedia, (2009): “Internet” http://en.wikipedia.com/wiki/internet accessed on the 11th September, 2009.
 Wikipedia, (2009): “Domain Name”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/domainname
 The internet registrars are the regulatory organisations or registries which regulate the domain names and operation of domain names system.
 Wikipedia, op cit.
 The full meaning of these characters are: GOV – Government, EDU – Education, NET – Network, INT – International Agency, ORG – Non-Governmental Organisation, MIL – Military, and COM – Commercial
 Wikipedia, op. cit.
 These include: com.ng – commercial entities and purposes (Open), edu.ng – Higher and further education and research institution (Closed), name.ng – Personal names (Open), net.ng – Internet Service/ Telecoms Providers’ infrastructure (Closed), org.ng – Not-for-profit entities (Open), sch.ng – Other Academic institutions (Closed and at regional level), gov.ng – National, regional, and local government bodies and agencies (Closed), mil.ng – Military and related purposes (Closed), mobi.ng – Mobile devices meeting. Mobi gTLD standards (Open). See NIRA Domain Name Policy, Version 1.0, May 5, 2008.
 Section 251(1), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, Section 7 (1) (b) of the Federal High Court Act.