The Ultimate Guide to Trademark Registration in Nigeria
by Counseal Team
Updated November 26, 2023
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:
- Generic terms or phrases
- Popular names or likenesses without consent from the owners
- Government symbols or insignia
- Government or other internationally recognized official titles.
- Immoral, deceptive, or scandalous words or symbols
- Sounds (like a beat or music) or short motifs. These are covered by copyright instead.
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.
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
- Generic Mark – Marks that represent regular descriptions of a product or service: “food,” “hospital,” and “technologies,” are all examples of generic marks. Generic marks cannot be trademarked alone without an exclusive modifier to distinguish the brand. For example, a tech company cannot trademark the term “technologies.” This would make them a monopoly on the term. Wilson Technologies distinguishes the brand and can be trademarked.
- Suggestive Mark – Marks that implies qualities of a product or service without referring to it in a literal sense. Clubhouse is a great example: it implies a social platform without directly stating it is an audio chat room social app.
- Descriptive Mark – Words that merely identify the significant characteristics of a service. On their own, descriptive marks are weak and non-registerable. However, adding a signifier to the description could qualify the product for registration. “Airlines,” for example, describes air transportation services and cannot be trademarked. Make that American Airlines, and you have a trademarkable phrase.
- Arbitrary Mark – These marks compose of a vernacular or words that have a common meaning in the jargon of an industry, profession, culture, space, or any relevant jurisdiction. However, these words should be entirely unrelated to the products they signify. When you think of an apple, you imagine an edible fruit, whereas Apple is the name of electronic products.
- Fanciful Mark – These are marks or words born out of thin air, as the name implies. It is the easiest kind of trademark to register as it requires the coining of a word that doesn’t exist. While being easy, researching your fanciful mark to ensure it incorporates your business’ cultural overtones is recommended. Make sure it is easy to spell, pronounce, and remember.
Specific Types of Trademarks
- Service Mark – These are trademarks specific to non-product items, such as services. A service mark differentiates a brand’s class of services from other similar brands. For example, we can have Adams Hotel, Adams Airlines, and Adams restaurants. The name Adams is similar, but the service marks tell the businesses apart.
- Certification Mark – Certain products require the trademark of allowed certification bodies to validate or endorse them for public use. Think NAFDAC certification on disinfectants and drugs sold in Nigeria. Certification marks are used by the proprietors of the mark, not the owner of the product.
- Collective Mark – These marks distinguish collective organizations or associations from each other and prevent others from using such marks. The Red Cross doesn’t just mean two words or a red cross on a white background– it represents medical aid. It represents the interests of the organisation behind it.
- Trade Name – A trade name is a familiar name (different from associated service marks or legal phrases) a company uses in doing business. ‘Amazon’ is the trade name of Amazon.com, Inc and it holds many trademarks such as Amazon Prime, Amazon Kindle, and Alexa.
- House Mark – This refers to a trademark used to identify the producer of a line of products rather than a single product. Telsa Model S, Telsa Model Y, etc. are all house marks of the brand Tesla, Inc. Similarly, the “i” in iPhone, iPads, iTunes, and so on, identify products made by Apple, Inc.
- Sound Mark – This is a unique tune that is widely recognized and associated with a product or service. The default ringtone of a Nokia mobile phone is a good example of a sound mark trademarked by Nokia.
- Pattern Mark – Lots of pattern marks are found within the fashion industry, distinguishing fashion brands from one another. Louis Vuitton‘s famous LV pattern is a good example.
- Position Mark – The unique positioning of a mark on goods can be trademarked. For example, the “good mark” on Nike Shoes and the three stripes on that of Adidas. Position mark differs from logo mark as it’s not the logo of a product that is trademarked, but how the logo or other marks are affixed.
- Multimedia Mark – Popular among movie producers, multimedia mark comprises the coming together of visual elements, sounds, display methods, and display timing to distinguish brands. A Marvel Comics movie differs from that of DC Comics because of the distinct multimedia mark of both companies.
- Logotype – This trademark protects the graphical elements of a logo. Most organisation registers logo trademarks to provide extra protection when representation of the brand by trademarked words alone is not enough.
- Hologram mark – Hologram trademarks are still new and aim to replace the static form. Hologram marks present a brand trademark as a three-dimensional picture shown through a holographic device.
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 – The Difference Between ™ and ®
There are two major kinds of trademark symbols: the ™ (superscript TM) and the ® (R in circle).
™ 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.
® 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 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:
- Avoid names, slogans, or logos that cannot be registered.
- Avoid marks that might confuse customers with another trademark: Using marks that are too similar to existing trademarks might confuse the public about the source of a product. It could lead to trademark infringements and invite a lawsuit.
- Decide your trademark type and class early and ensure it aligns with the industry you intend to do business in. Ask yourself: “Is my mark a fanciful, descriptive, arbitrary, or suggestive mark?” “Under what class does my trademark fall in?” (See classes of trademark in section 4 of this guide).
- Create a name, slogan, or logo that incorporates your business core value or culture: Take the Samsung logo, for example. The distinctive feature of the letter “A” without the horizontal bar denotes the company’s continuous strive for innovation. Named after the Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla, Tesla Motors is suggesting their drive to lead innovations in the electronic vehicle (EV) market.
- Avoid three-letter acronyms, embrace full, colourful words or phrases: Names like IBM and MTN are successful trademarks today because the owners poured millions of dollars into making the marks famous. However, few people know the full meaning of these acronyms, hence, these are not as memorable as say Apple or Glo.
Already thinking of the perfect trademark for your business? Fantastic!
Now, let’s proceed to the major focus of this guide:
Registering A Trademark in Nigeria
Trademark registration in Nigeria is governed by the following relevant laws:
- The Trade Marks Act 1965
- The Trade Marks Regulations 1967
- Trade Marks Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 1990
- The Merchandise Mark Act, CAP M10 LFN 2004
- Trade Marks Act, CAP T13 LFN 2004
Other laws containing trademark provisions are:
- The Trademark Malpractice (Miscellaneous Offence), CAP T12 LFN 2004
- 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:
- STEP 1: Trademark Search
- STEP 2: Application
- STEP 3: Acceptance or Rejection
- STEP 4: Publication
- STEP 5: Trademark Certification
Let’s dive into the details:
Step 1: Trademark Search
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:
- Start with a simple online search: If you develop software or mobile apps, checking for products that match your chosen product name in software categories of online retailers in Nigeria is a good start.
- Don’t forget to look up app names in various app stores like the Google Play Store and App Store. For eCommerce, simply key in your chosen website name along with the relevant service provided in search engines like Google.
- Make your search broad and look for variations: Ensure you perform a broad search. For example, if you are a software developer, search all the software sections of each retailer or directory you use.
- Search for variations of your chosen name. For example, if you’re a blogger and have picked the name “Littlepaper” as a trademark, search online for variations of that name. For example, “Litupapa” or “Leetlepaypal”. Consider language translations, too. For Google searches, you can perform a better search query by enclosing your phrase in double quotes (“”) i.e. type in “Littlepaper” in Google, instead of just Littlepaper. You can also instruct Google to exclude certain content from your search query. For example, if you want content around “marketing” excluded from your Littlepaper search result, simply input: “Littlepaper -marketing.” Read this guide for further insights on performing Google searches like a pro.
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 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:
- Trademark searches: No estimated timeframe.
- Acknowledgement letter: 24 hours from submission.
- Acceptance Letter: 4-6 weeks from submission.
- Trademark Publication: 32 weeks from Acceptance Letter stage.
- Grant of Trademark Certificate: 12 weeks from publication (assuming there are no oppositions).
Basic requirements for Trademark Registration
You will be required to provide the following for trademark registration:
- A copy of the logo, word, slogan, device, or other article proposed for trademarking.
- Applicant’s details (i.e. your name, your business or company’s name)
- Company seal or individual signature.
- Contact details of the applicant.
- Power of Attorney appointing the trademark agent: This is a document stating the trademark agent’s appointment to conduct the registration process on behalf of the applicant, by the applicant (usually, the accredited agent would draft this and forward it to you for execution).
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:
- An application for trademark renewal
- Trademark Certificate (evidencing your trademark registration)
- Power of Attorney appointing an accredited agent
- Payment of a renewal fee
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:
- Trademark Certificate (evidencing your trademark registration)
- Deed or Agreement assigning the trademark
- Power of Attorney appointing the accredited agent
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:
- Non-use of a registered trademark up to a month before the date of the challenge application or for five years
- The trademark was registered with no bonafide intention to use the mark
- The challenging application(s) can prove that:
- The mark lacks distinctiveness
- The mark was registered in bad faith
- The mark is contrary to public policy
- The mark is generic, misleading, or deceptive
- The mark contradicts a well-known existing 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?
- The lawyer performs a deeper trademark search and examines your proposed mark before application. This means you stand a greater chance of proposing a valid mark and having it accepted for registration.
- If an objection is raised against your filed trademark, a lawyer is the only qualified person to argue the matter with the registry and settle it, so the registration is granted.
- Should a notice of opposition be filed against your trademark after publication, your lawyer can take it up and represent you before a tribunal.
- The lawyer assists you with drafting the Power of Attorney which is required for trademark registration.
- A lawyer is useful for future uncertainties like trademark cancellation. Even if you don’t appoint a permanent trademark lawyer after successful registration, having a good relationship with one comes in handy.
- In a situation where a person who filed for a trademark died without completing the registration, the lawyer can represent the dead, with the consent of the deceased heir, to complete the process.
- Generally, a trademark lawyer takes the everyday burdens associated with trademarks off your shoulders, from registration and renewals to assignment and cancellation.
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
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:
- Creation of intangible asset: A registered trademark is an intangible asset for your business that can be sold, assigned, commercially contracted, or franchised. Using the ® symbol aids your brand in building trust and goodwill.
- Intellectual Property protection: Incorporating your business name at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) only prevents other persons from registering a business name similar to you. It does not protect your business’s intellectual property from infringement. That protection is only granted by trademark registration.
- Protection of trade name and incorporated name: When your business incorporated name differs from the trade name, trademark registration ensures both names are protected.
- Right to action against unauthorized use: Trademark registration gives you the right to take legal action against third parties who infringe on your brand. The court can award huge compensation for damages sustained because of trademark infringement.
- Marketing tool: Your business trademark distinguishes your products from that of other brands in the market. When the public comes to trust a registered trademark, it holds products bearing such trademark in high regard and people may pay a premium for such products. This may rub off on your company’s reputation and increase its value.
- Trademark assignment: Only registered trademarks can be legally assigned. Trademark assignments can earn your business additional revenue, especially if you plan to expand the business through franchising.
- Global trademark registrations: A trademark registered in Nigeria gives it a preference for registration to other countries. This is down to trust in the trademark’s legality back home. International preference makes it easier to register your trademark in other countries.
- Getting an operation license: Trademark registration is a requirement for getting a license to operate in certain Nigerian sectors, such as the healthcare sector.
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:
- No intellectual property protection: Your trademark can be hijacked by another brand if not registered. This is not limited to Nigeria alone. If you are using an unregistered trademark, you risk losing your trademark to any brand worldwide that registers it first.
- Risk of infringement: The major risk associated with an unregistered trademark is the risk of being sued for trademark infringement. The lack of an appropriate trademark search means you risk using a mark similar to that of an existing registered trademark. This is potentially dangerous as not only would you lose your mark, you might be compelled by the court to compensate the plaintiff.
- Risk of using trademarks that cannot be registered: Apart from losing an unregistered trademark to infringement, you can also lose it if found to be a mark that cannot be registered. (See again trademarks that cannot be registered above).
- Loss of the right to legal action: Unregistered trademarks cannot be enforced by law. It is extremely difficult to sue for infringement even if someone directly copies your mark.
- It is not an asset: Unlike registered trademarks, unregistered trademarks are not assets. They cannot be legally sold, assigned, or franchised. This results in loss of potential revenue and could harm strategic business partnerships.
- Barrier to global markets: It’s difficult enough to break into new local markets using unregistered trademarks. It is twice as hard to expand business abroad. While some countries offer certain protections for unregistered trademarks, consider questioning if the protection is enough for your business in international waters.
This brings us to the next subsection.
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 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:
- Class 1: Chemicals for industry, science and photography, as well as in agriculture, horticulture and forestry; unprocessed artificial resins, unprocessed plastics; fire extinguishing and fire prevention compositions; tempering and soldering preparations; substances for tanning animal skins and hides; adhesives for industry; putties and other paste fillers; compost, manures, fertilizers; biological preparations for industry and science.
- Class 2: Paints, varnishes, lacquers; preservatives against rust and deterioration of wood; colourants, dyes; inks for printing, marking and engraving; raw natural resins; metals in foil and powder form for painting, decorating, printing and art.
- Class 3: Non-medicated cosmetics and toiletry preparations; non-medicated dentifrices; perfumery, essential oils; bleaching preparations and other substances for laundry use; cleaning, polishing, scouring, and abrasive preparations.
- Class 4: Industrial oils and greases, wax; lubricants; dust absorbing, wetting and binding compositions; fuels and illuminants; candles and wicks for lighting.
- Class 5: Pharmaceuticals, medical and veterinary preparations; sanitary preparations for medical purposes; dietary supplements for human beings and animals; plasters, materials for dressings; dietetic food and substances adapted for medical or veterinary use, food for babies; material for stopping teeth, dental wax; disinfectants; preparations for destroying vermin; fungicides, herbicides.
- Class 6: Common metals and their alloys, ores; Metal materials for building and construction; transportable buildings of metal; non-electric cables and wires of common metal; Minor items of metal hardware; metal containers for storage or transport; safes.
- Class 7: Machines, machine tools, power-operated tools; motors and engines, except for land vehicles; machine coupling and transmission components, except for land vehicles; agricultural implements, other than hand-operated hand tools; incubators for eggs; automatic vending machines.
- Class 8: Hand tools and implements, hand-operated; cutlery; side arms, except firearms; razors.
- Class 9: Scientific, research, navigation, surveying, photographic, cinematographic, audiovisual, optical, weighing, measuring, signalling, detecting, testing, inspecting, life-saving and teaching apparatus and instruments; apparatus and instruments for conducting, switching, transforming, accumulating, regulating or controlling the distribution or use of electricity; diving suits, divers masks, earplugs for divers, nose clips for divers and swimmers, gloves for divers, breathing apparatus for underwater swimming; fire-extinguishing apparatus; apparatus and instruments for recording, transmitting, reproducing or processing sound, images or data; recorded and downloadable media, computer software, blank digital or analogue recording and storage media; mechanisms for coin-operated apparatus; cash registers, calculating devices; computers and computer peripheral devices.
- Class 10: Surgical, medical, dental and veterinary apparatus and instruments; Artificial limbs, eyes and teeth; orthopaedic articles; suture materials; sexual activity apparatus, devices, and articles; therapeutic and assistive devices adapted for persons with disabilities; massage apparatus; apparatus, devices and articles for nursing infants.
- Class 11: Apparatus and installations for lighting, heating, cooling, steam generating, cooking, drying, ventilating, water supply and sanitary purposes.
- Class 12: Vehicles; apparatus for locomotion by land, air, or water.
- Class 13: Firearms; ammunition and projectiles; explosives; fireworks.
- Class 14: Precious metals and their alloys; Jewellery, precious and semi-precious stones; horological and chronometric instruments.
- Class 15: Musical instruments; music stands and stands for musical instruments; conductors’ batons.
- Class 16: Paper and cardboard; printed matter; bookbinding material; photographs; stationery and office requisites, except furniture; adhesives for stationery or household purposes; drawing materials and materials for artists; paintbrushes; instructional and teaching materials; plastic sheets, films and bags for wrapping and packaging; printers’ type, printing blocks.
- Class 17: Unprocessed and semi-processed rubber, gutta-percha, gum, asbestos, mica and substitutes for all these materials; packing, stopping and insulating materials; Plastics and resins in extruded form for manufacture; flexible pipes, tubes and hoses, not of metal.
- Class 18: Leather and imitations of leather; collars, leashes and clothing for animals; Animal skins and hides; Luggage and carrying bags; umbrellas and parasols; walking sticks; whips, harness and saddlery.
- Class 19: Monuments, not of metal; materials, not of metal, for building and construction; rigid pipes, not of metal, for building; asphalt, pitch, tar and bitumen; transportable buildings, not of metal.
- Class 20: Furniture, mirrors, picture frames; containers, not of metal, for storage or transport; unworked or semi-worked bone, horn, whalebone or mother-of-pearl; shells; meerschaum; yellow amber.
- Class 21: Household or kitchen utensils and containers; unworked or semi-worked glass, except building glass; glassware, porcelain and earthenware; cookware and tableware, except forks, knives and spoons; combs and sponges; brushes, except paintbrushes; brush-making materials; articles for cleaning.
- Class 22: Ropes and string; nets; tents and tarpaulins; awnings of textile or synthetic materials; sails; sacks for the transport and storage of materials in bulk; padding, cushioning and stuffing materials, except paper, cardboard, rubber or plastics; raw fibrous textile materials and substitutes therefor.
- Class 23: Yarns and threads for textile use.
- Class 24: Textiles and substitutes for textiles; household linen; curtains of textile or plastic.
- Class 25: Clothing, footwear, headwear.
- Class 26: Lace, braid and embroidery, and haberdashery ribbons and bows; buttons, hooks and eyes, pins and needles; artificial flowers; hair decorations; false hair.
- Class 27: Wall hangings, not of textile; carpets, rugs, mats and matting, linoleum and other materials for covering existing floors.
- Class 28: Games, toys and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles; decorations for Christmas trees; video game apparatus.
- Class 29: Meat, fish, poultry and game; meat extracts; preserved, frozen, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables; jellies, jams, compotes; eggs; milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt and other milk products; oils and fats for food.
- Class 30: Coffee, tea, cocoa and artificial coffee; rice, pasta and noodles; tapioca and sago; flour and preparations made from cereals; Bread, pastries and confectionery; chocolate; ice cream, sorbets and other edible ices; Sugar, honey, treacle; vinegar, sauces and other condiments; ice (frozen water); yeast, baking-powder; salt, seasonings, spices, preserved herbs.
- Class 31: Unprocessed agricultural, aquacultural, horticultural and forestry products; live animals; malt; raw grains and seeds; fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs; Natural plants and flowers; bulbs, seedlings and seeds for planting; foodstuffs and beverages for animals.
- Class 32: Beers; non-alcoholic beverages; syrups and other non-alcoholic preparations for making beverages; mineral and aerated waters; fruit beverages and fruit juices.
- Class 33: Alcoholic beverages, except beers; alcoholic preparations for making beverages.
- Class 34: Tobacco and tobacco substitutes; cigarettes and cigars; electronic cigarettes and oral vaporizers for smokers; smokers’ articles; matches.
- Class 35: Advertising; office functions; business management, organization and administration.
- Class 36: Real estate affairs; financial, and banking services; insurance services.
- Class 37: Construction services; installation and repair services; mining extraction, oil and gas drilling.
- Class 38: Telecommunications services.
- Class 39: Transport; packaging and storage of goods; travel arrangement.
- Class 40: Treatment of materials; recycling of waste and trash; air purification and treatment of water; printing services; food and drink preservation.
- Class 41: Education; providing of training; entertainment; sporting and cultural activities.
- Class 42: Scientific and technological services and research and design relating thereto; quality control and authentication services; industrial analysis, industrial research and industrial design services; design and development of computer hardware and software.
- Class 43: Services for providing food and drink; temporary accommodation.
- Class 44: Medical services; agriculture, aquaculture, horticulture and forestry services; veterinary services; hygienic and beauty care for human beings or animals.
- Class 45: Legal services; personal and social services rendered by others to meet the needs of individuals; security services for the physical protection of tangible property and individuals.
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.