IP 2.1 INTRODUCTION OT THE LAW OF PATENT
:: Definition: The law of patent is a branch of industrial property law.
:: For the purpose of this subject, industrial property law entails: Trademark (dealing with identification of products), Industrial design (the aesthetics and appearance of a product), Patent (Dealing with new inventions and how they function).
:: A patent is the legal right conferred on the inventor of a new, useful and exceptional product or process to exploit (i.e. sell, distribute, etc.) it to the exclusion of others.
:: Unlike Copyright which is generally conferred when the work is fixed in a definite medium of expression, Patents are granted in respect of registered inventions.
:: The patent system seeks to strike a balance between public interest (to access new inventions) and private right (of the creator to be rewarded for his outstanding invention).
We are looking at it from the perspective of Britain.
The crown conferred monopoly on creative individuals as an incentive to innovate. As time went by, this power was abused and converted to a tool for dispensing political favour to persons who may be able to buy the protection. It worsened as patent was being granted in respect of already known products, necessities and mediocre inventions like playing cards (as was done in Darcy V Allin).
However, the development of trade and commerce made Britain realize the need to encourage competition and innovation and catch-up with other countries like France and Holland. To this effect, the Statute of Monopolies was promulgated in 1624. It cancelled all previous monopolies except those covering new inventions. A fourteen-year term of protection was accorded to the “true and first inventor” of an exceptional invention-see Section 6 of the Statute of Monopolies 1624.
Following a resolution at the International Patents Conference 1879, Britain and other colonialists extended their patent laws to their colonies (so as to protect their own interests.
The Patents Ordinance 1900 was enacted in Nigeria. Subsequently, the Patents Ordinance of 1916 was promulgated (Following the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria, in 1914). The Act provided that patents should be registered in the UK before coming to Nigeria to have it registered. This shows that the British had selfish intentions.
The first “indigenous” patent Act was enacted in 1970 as the Patents and Designs Act. Which is the presently applicable Act. Section 31 of the Act repeals all previous UK statutory provisions. The act also provides for registration in Nigeria as opposed to the hitherto existing requirement of registration in the UK.