Olufola Wusu

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On the 23rd of August 2012 the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria at a press briefing announced the apex’s banks plan titled “PROJECT CURE” to restructure Nigeria’s currency by the coining of the N20 (twenty), N10 (ten), and N5 (five) naira notes and the introduction of the five thousand naira note.
Understandably the announcement was greeted with varied reactions, in an attempt to justify the proposed plan of the apex bank; a director in the said bank was quoted by a national newspaper as saying that
“It was quite shocking to us when we discovered that the patent rights of some of our notes are owned by non-Nigerians.”
Thesaid director was also quoted as having said that the patent rights of the new designs of the naira would be owned fully by Nigerians.
Meanwhile, a former president of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, was quoted as having said that
“It is not the standard practice to have the patents of national currency held by foreigners. It is because Nigeria lacks the technology and trained personnel to manage its own printing. It is dangerous because if we have to get it back we will pay heavily”.
However, without dwelling on the legality or illegality of the above action this paper will attempt to examine the Intellectual Property ramifications of the proposed course of action and the ambits of Intellectual Property protection for bank notes.
The laws enumerated below make up the legal regime for the protection of Intellectual Property Rights in Nigeria.
Nigerian Copy Right Act, Cap. C 28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004
Patents and Designs Act, Cap P2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004;
Trade Marks Act, Cap. T13 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004; and
Merchandise Marks Act Cap. M10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

Intellectual Property Rights abound in National Currencies
Research and operations in the Bank Note printing and coin minting industry produce new ideas, security procedures, and plenty of security features identifiable using a look, feel and tilt approach, especially in areas bothering on anti-counterfeiting, raised print, micro printing and water marking for the industry.
These make up the basic intellectual properties of the industry which has potentially transformed the Bank Note printing and coin minting industryfrom a commodity market to knowledge/innovation/intellectual property based industry.
“Intellectual Property becomes a valuable asset to the Bank Note printing and coin minting industry, when it is registered and steps are taken to prevent competitors from accessing and using it for free.”

Intellectual Property in the Naira;
The basic types of Intellectual property prevalent in our national currency arethe following; Patents,Copyrights and Trade Secrets.

Benefit of Naira Intellectual Property;
In protecting innovation even in our Naira we are able to deter others from using the innovation we come up with, a key benefit of an intellectual property system is that a contractual right is only enforceable against the person who entered into contract with you; while a property right is enforceable against the whole world!

Patents
A patent is a document issued, upon application by a government office (or a regional office acting for several countries), which describes an invention and creates a legal situation in which the patented invention can normally only be exploited (manufactured, used, sold, imported) with the authorization of the owner of the patent
Patents cover things like cutting-edge technologies used in anti-copying devices, anti-counterfeiting, watermarking and other security features in the currency note.
One of Crane & Co.’s earliest patents was issued in 1844, for denominating banknotes by embedding parallel silk security threads in the paper.
Quite a number of countries are now using polymer bank notes. Australia was the first country to develop and use polymer notes in general circulation, primarily in an attempt to reduce the amount of counterfeit money in circulation.The first patent arising from the development of polymer banknotes was reported filed in 1973
The Possibility of a Compulsory License.
The Nigerian Government ostensibly ignored a court judgment on the patent rights to the transparent electoral box owned by a Nigerian company possibly under the guise of national importance, totally ignoring the possibility of a license compulsory or otherwise.
However in this present instance our law abiding government claims to be helpless in the face of the patent rights to the Nigerian Naira notes being owned by foreigners and now intends to use this as a valid reason to spend billions of naira to print new Naira notes.

Trade secrets
A “trade secret” is defined as any product, operating formula, pattern, device or other compilation of information which is used in a business, which gets its economic value from being kept secret, and gives the business a competitive advantage.
The Bank Note printing and coin mintingindustry depends heavily on trade secret protection. Anti-counterfeiting technology and other security features are confidential and are fiercely protected as trade secrets.
Duration of trade secret protection
The duration of trade secret protection is potentially perpetual, as it continues as long as you can keep your “trade secret” secret!

Copyrights
A copyright gives the holder of such copyright the exclusive right to control exploitation, production and adaptation of such a work for a certain period of time.
Copyright exists in a work on the basis of originality and fixation. Copyright protection is particularly important to the protection of our national currency.It would cover Bank notes, coins and even the images on the notes and the notes should bear the mark that they are copyright protected and that the copyright vests in the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The need for proper “IP” contract review of Governmental contracts
The Nigerian Government needs proper contract review of the contracts its officials signs with foreigners; this is even more important when intellectual property rights are involved.The recent comments attributed to a high ranking official in Nigeria belies a lack of understanding or knowledge of Intellectual Property, its impact on our national currency, our national economyand its impact on our national security!Our Government officials need to ensure that our naira and kobo are protected from patent trolls and other IP predators as a crucial part of our national security.

Contractual Terms should state that all IP vests in the Federal Government
Whether the government gets foreigners to design our currency notes or designs our currency notes in house the provisions of every contract we sign for design and printing of our currency notes must clearly state that all Intellectual Property rights remain with the Federal Republic of Nigeria.This would help us avoid the ugly situation that occurred earlier this year as there was a case of copyright infringement affecting Uganda’s bank notes, a copyright holder claiming rights over a work depicted on the bank note sued the Bank of Uganda.
Perhaps our constitution should our constitution should be amended to reflect this reality.For instance Article 231 (3) of the Kenyan Constitution has introduced a new requirement that notes and coins issued by the Central Bank of Kenya should bear images that depict or symbolise Kenya or an aspect of Kenya.

TRADEMARKS
Section 62 of the Trademarks Act grants protection to the “Coat of Arms” of both State and Federal Governments by placing clear restrictions on the registration of any brand bearing these Arms.

Naira and KoboDesign and Printing Transactions
The ministries, departments and agencies responsible for giving out contracts to engage foreign companies to print the naira need to consult IP experts skilled in contract review and IP audits in order to ensure that all intellectual property rights pertaining to the naira are assigned to Nigeria and not licensed to us at cut throat rates.
The value of I.P. is a monetary compensation that is expected to be received from licensing of I.P. or from sale or exchange of other intangible assets.

Actions for Infringement cast doubt on currency
If by chance Nigeria was face to face with an infringement action where infringement were established, there is a possibility the confidentiality of the security features of our Naira banknotes could be endangered. We cannot risk Nigerians doubting the validity of our cash as a means of paying for goods and services.

Conclusion
Here is an appeal to our government officials to ensure that our naira and kobo are protected from patent trolls and other IP predators as a crucial part of our national security.
Given the crucial importance legal tender banknotes and coins have for economic life in Nigeria, it might be of interest to Nigeria to carry out an audit of all Intellectual Property belonging to government ministries, departments and agencies and the national laws concerning compulsory licensing of IPR related to naira and kobo.
As they say let us give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s!

On the 23rd of August 2012 the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria at a press briefing announced the apex’s banks plan titled “PROJECT CURE” to restructure Nigeria’s currency by the coining of the N20 (twenty), N10 (ten), and N5 (five) naira notes and the introduction of the five thousand naira note.
Understandably the announcement was greeted with varied reactions, in an attempt to justify the proposed plan of the apex bank; a director in the said bank was quoted by a national newspaper as saying that
“It was quite shocking to us when we discovered that the patent rights of some of our notes are owned by non-Nigerians.”
Thesaid director was also quoted as having said that the patent rights of the new designs of the naira would be owned fully by Nigerians.
Meanwhile, a former president of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, was quoted as having said that
“It is not the standard practice to have the patents of national currency held by foreigners. It is because Nigeria lacks the technology and trained personnel to manage its own printing. It is dangerous because if we have to get it back we will pay heavily”.
However, without dwelling on the legality or illegality of the above action this paper will attempt to examine the Intellectual Property ramifications of the proposed course of action and the ambits of Intellectual Property protection for bank notes.
The laws enumerated below make up the legal regime for the protection of Intellectual Property Rights in Nigeria.
Nigerian Copy Right Act, Cap. C 28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004
Patents and Designs Act, Cap P2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004;
Trade Marks Act, Cap. T13 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004; and
Merchandise Marks Act Cap. M10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

Intellectual Property Rights abound in National Currencies
Research and operations in the Bank Note printing and coin minting industry produce new ideas, security procedures, and plenty of security features identifiable using a look, feel and tilt approach, especially in areas bothering on anti-counterfeiting, raised print, micro printing and water marking for the industry.
These make up the basic intellectual properties of the industry which has potentially transformed the Bank Note printing and coin minting industryfrom a commodity market to knowledge/innovation/intellectual property based industry.
“Intellectual Property becomes a valuable asset to the Bank Note printing and coin minting industry, when it is registered and steps are taken to prevent competitors from accessing and using it for free.”

Intellectual Property in the Naira;
The basic types of Intellectual property prevalent in our national currency arethe following; Patents,Copyrights and Trade Secrets.

Benefit of NairaIntellectual Property;
In protecting innovation even in our naira we are able to deter others from using the innovation we come up with, a key benefit of an intellectual property system is that a contractual right is only enforceable against the person who entered into contract with you; while a property right is enforceable against the whole world!

Patents
A patent is a document issued, upon application by a government office (or a regional office acting for several countries), which describes an invention and creates a legal situation in which the patented invention can normally only be exploited (manufactured, used, sold, imported) with the authorization of the owner of the patent
Patents cover things like cutting-edge technologies used in anti-copying devices, anti-counterfeiting, watermarking and other security features in the currency note.
One of Crane & Co.’s earliest patents was issued in 1844, for denominating banknotes by embedding parallel silk security threads in the paper.
Quite a number of countries are now using polymer bank notes. Australia was the first country to develop and use polymer notes in general circulation, primarily in an attempt to reduce the amount of counterfeit money in circulation.The first patent arising from the development of polymer banknotes was reported filed in 1973
The Possibility of a Compulsory License.
The Nigerian Government ostensibly ignored a court judgment on the patent rights to the transparent electoral box owned by a Nigerian company possibly under the guise of national importance, totally ignoring the possibility of a license compulsory or otherwise.
However in this present instance our law abiding government claims to be helpless in the face of the patent rights to the Nigerian Naira notes being owned by foreigners and now intends to use this as a valid reason to spend billions of naira to print new Naira notes.

Trade secrets
A “trade secret” is defined as any product, operating formula, pattern, device or other compilation of information which is used in a business, which gets its economic value from being kept secret, and gives the business a competitive advantage.
The Bank Note printing and coin mintingindustry depends heavily on trade secret protection. Anti-counterfeiting technology and other security features are confidential and are fiercely protected as trade secrets.
Duration of trade secret protection
The duration of trade secret protection is potentially perpetual, as it continues as long as you can keep your “trade secret” secret!

Copyrights
A copyright gives the holder of such copyright the exclusive right to control exploitation, production and adaptation of such a work for a certain period of time.
Copyright exists in a work on the basis of originality and fixation. Copyright protection is particularly important to the protection of our national currency.It would cover Bank notes, coins and even the images on the notes and the notes should bear the mark that they are copyright protected and that the copyright vests in the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The need for proper “IP” contract review of Governmental contracts
The Nigerian Government needs proper contract review of the contracts its officials signs with foreigners; this is even more important when intellectual property rights are involved.The recent comments attributed to a high ranking official in Nigeria belies a lack of understanding or knowledge of Intellectual Property, its impact on our national currency, our national economyand its impact on our national security!Our Government officials need to ensure that our naira and kobo are protected from patent trolls and other IP predators as a crucial part of our national security.

Contractual Terms should state that all IP vests in the Federal Government
Whether the government gets foreigners to design our currency notes or designs our currency notes in house the provisions of every contract we sign for design and printing of our currency notes must clearly state that all Intellectual Property rights remain with the Federal Republic of Nigeria.This would help us avoid the ugly situation that occurred earlier this year as there was a case of copyright infringement affecting Uganda’s bank notes, a copyright holder claiming rights over a work depicted on the bank note sued the Bank of Uganda.
Perhaps our constitution should our constitution should be amended to reflect this reality.For instance Article 231 (3) of the Kenyan Constitution has introduced a new requirement that notes and coins issued by the Central Bank of Kenya should bear images that depict or symbolise Kenya or an aspect of Kenya.

TRADEMARKS
Section 62 of the Trademarks Act grants protection to the “Coat of Arms” of both State and Federal Governments by placing clear restrictions on the registration of any brand bearing these Arms.

Naira and KoboDesign and Printing Transactions
The ministries, departments and agencies responsible for giving out contracts to engage foreign companies to print the naira need to consult IP experts skilled in contract review and IP audits in order to ensure that all intellectual property rights pertaining to the naira are assigned to Nigeria and not licensed to us at cut throat rates.
The value of I.P. is a monetary compensation that is expected to be received from licensing of I.P. or from sale or exchange of other intangible assets.

Actions for Infringement cast doubt on currency
If by chance Nigeria was face to face with an infringement action where infringement were established, there is a possibility the confidentiality of the security features of our Naira banknotes could be endangered. We cannot risk Nigerians doubting the validity of our cash as a means of paying for goods and services.

Conclusion
Here is an appeal to our government officials to ensure that our naira and kobo are protected from patent trolls and other IP predators as a crucial part of our national security.
Given the crucial importance legal tender banknotes and coins have for economic life in Nigeria, it might be of interest to Nigeria to carry out an audit of all Intellectual Property belonging to government ministries, departments and agencies and the national laws concerning compulsory licensing of IPR related to naira and kobo.

As they say let us give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s!

Olufola Wusu is a Commercial, Oil and Gas and I.P. Lawyer based in Lagos

Olufola Wusu Esq. © 2012

Olufola Wusu is noted for his “dynamic practice” and “commercial acumen”. He is praised for his “first-rate skills” in assisting clients…