US, Nigeria meet on Intellectual Property, move against counterfeiters

United States Mission in Nigeria and the American Business Council, in partnership with the Nigerian Government and members of the private sector, met in Lagos, Monday, on Intellectual Property (IP).

The symposium theme, “The Bane of Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals and Piracy”, brought together stakeholders including senior officials from federal ministries, departments and agencies, legislators, lawyers, business, technology leaders and agreed on aggressive but concerted efforts against counterfeiters of drugs, cream, music, films, books, electronics, food items, etc.

In attendance were Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye; Chief Executive, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Mr. Babatunde Irukera, D-G of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. John Asein, D-G, National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Dr. Olusegun Ojo, top officials of the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Army, Nigeria Customs Service, among others.

U.S. Embassy Chargé d’affaires, Kathleen FitzGibbon, in her remarks, highlighted the importance of intellectual property rights protection which enables the innovation and creativity needed to bolster economic growth.

FitzGibbon noted that strong intellectual property rights protection is essential to creating jobs and opening new markets for goods and services.

“This is not just an American issue, this is a global issue and as Nigeria moves ahead with goals of diversifying and shifting to a knowledge-based economy, a strong intellectual property rights regime will help attract investment and protect Nigerian ideas and Nigerian businesses,” Chargé FitzGibbon said.

She urged stakeholders – government, consumers, and businesses – to join forces in ensuring the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

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Robert Bowman, Regional Director (Africa), U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training, stated that the impact of IP theft was devastating.

“I’m excited about the progress we could make in saving lives and jobs. I’m more excited about the actions you will take after this symposium,” Bowman said.

In his keynote address, Professor Adebambo Adewopo (SAN), a former DG of the NCC, stressed that the opportunities and challenges of the global economy can only leave an unconnected country behind.

“While the IP debate has not been entirely new, one of the missing elements has been effective collaboration and cooperation that is needed to drive the debate and build momentum not only for achieving reform but also to combat both the domestic and worldwide industry of counterfeiting, piracy and cybercrime,” he said.

“Building strategic alliances within and outside the country is therefore critical considering the global nature of digital technologies that are readily available to this formidable industry. In these alliances, we are also seeking to strengthen key institutions responsible for protecting IPR and combating counterfeiting and piracy.

“As the global recognition of Nigeria’s creative industries continues to ride on the wings of digital technology, the gains of that industry are best secured and sustained through strategic alliance with its counterpart in Hollywood and elsewhere.

“For example, Nollywood’s rise in global reckoning strongly demonstrates how creativity can contribute to the promotion of cultural heritage as well as economic growth. It is important to note that the creative industries should be able to yield better dividend for its creators, operators and economy as a whole.

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“The same for the pharmaceutical and other corporate sectors that rely on IP system. We must, therefore, rise with one voice to proclaim the gospel of IP the missing key to unlocking our lost treasures and the hidden wealth of our country.

“Our sheer size and diversity, our rich biodiversity, our innate capacities and industry as a people combine to make the dream of development attainable, feasible and realistic. Our consciousness of the value and protection of creativity is our strongest asset in realising the development goals of IP system”, said the IP Chair at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS).

A highlight of the ceremony was a drama performance by students of the Caro Favored Schools of Ajegunle.

Their sketch was designed to raise awareness among young Nigerian consumers about the importance of trademarks, brands, and the dangers of counterfeit products.

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