Law Project Topics

The Role of Intellectual Property (IP) Law in the Growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria

The Role of Intellectual Property (IP) Law in the Growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria

The Role of Intellectual Property (IP) Law in the Growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria



Given the vital role and contribution which SME’s, play in other developed and developing countries, and the continues evolution of innovations and creativity, it is pertinent that this research be carried out. Therefore, the objectives of the research are as follows:

.a. This research is aimed at the general public (especially SME   proprietors) to recognize the existence of the inexhaustible use of IPR’s and its application to SME’s.

  1. This research is meant primarily to examine the role of IP in the growth of SMEs in Nigeria. In this vain, attempt will be made to clearly reveal, how important IP and IPR’s issues amongst others, the development of IPRs protection are in Nigeria.
  2. This research will enable greater and more effective use of IP asset management strategies by SMEs for strengthening their competitiveness, especially in developing countries and economics in transition
  3. This research is also aimed at how, when properly utilized, IP can be a tool for poverty alleviation through trade and value for consumers and provide a guarantee of source and quality. It will also reveal how government policies that have been put in place can be managed for continues growth and development of SMEs.
  4. This research is thus, intended to find strategies suitable  for the development and survival of SME, make appropriate recommendations for at least, reducing the identified problems, challenges and constraints militating against the growth of SMEs and how they can properly manage available IPRS illuminating all the intricacies embedded therein.




The scope of Intellectual Property (IP) is very wide. The field encompasses such legal concepts as trademarks, patents, design as well as copyright. Other legal concepts treated as species of IP are trade secrets, confidential information, utility model and geographical indications. All these deal in one way or the other with the protection of the fruits of man’s creative efforts. It might be a poem that you write, the name your hairdresser thinks up to sell his or her service or a mother’s invention for a non spill cup for babies.

The man who thinks up a distinctive and original name, device or get-up to market his goods in order to make the goods easily recognizable or even more attractive to the average purchaser and had over a period of time procured through the quality of his goods substantial goodwill for the name, device or get-up deserves some protection for such name.

In this chapter, we are going to attempt clarification of the concepts of IP and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) together with the relevant legislation governing them.


The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) defines IP as:

Creation of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images and designs used in commerce.

The term IP has come into vogue relatively recently. To describe property rights in most of the various intangible products of the human intellect, sometimes the term is used to include copyright, the law of confidence and others are classified as industrial property rights such as patent, trademark and industrial design.

IP is that area of law which concerns legal rights associated with creative effort or commercial reputation. It includes the right to exclude others from using the thing i.e. it is a negative right.

People, particularly laymen think of property as in tangible property such as House, furniture, clothes, shoes, cars. Hardly do they think of the intangible property such as the rights, privileges, immunities etc. Like other tangible property, IP can be bought, sold, leased, transferred, licensed and assigned.

IP law deals with the protection of inventions. It is also a means of safeguarding the fruits of one’s creativity and maintaining one’s incentives to invest in innovations. WIPO sums it up in the following words.





SMEs have been generally acknowledged as having huge potential and indispensable component of national development in both developed and developing countries. Current developments in the global economy have brought about the ascendancy of intellectual property (IP). In the new global economy, wealth is generated through creating and harnessing the value of knowledge. Today, however, knowledge forms the greater part of the new wealth consequently, IP rights, the result of the industry of innovation have continued to play a leading role in the wealth of nations.

In Africa, IP issues are taking centre stage in discussion on development of the continent. It is against this backdrop that discussions on how IP play vital role in the growth of SME will be made.


A few years back, IP was not often discussed. Individuals and organization alike weren’t aware of IP rights and did not appreciate that the could commercially exploit their IP Rights (IPRs) or that IPRs are valuable assets.

The value of IP is usually not adequately appreciated. It’s potential for providing opportunities for future profit is widely underestimated by  SMEs. When legally protected, IP may generate an income for SMEs through licensing, sale or commercialization of the IP – protected products or services that may significantly improve an enterprises market share or raise its profit margin

IPRs provide a right holder with an exclusive right to prevent others from commercially using design, trademark, and invention, literary or artistic work. Depending on the IP strategy, of each company, IPRs are used by companies to meet a wide range of additional business objective. IPRs maybe used to obtain access to new market, enhance the reputation of a company as technology leader through access to, or ownership of, key patented technologies, create a corporate identity through trademark and branding strategy; increase the market value of a company in case of a merger or acquisition.




In Nigeria, perhaps, no development strategy has enjoyed much prominence as SMEs. A business whether big or small is created to provide competitive price. Business in Nigeria has been classified as small, medium and large. In both developed and developing economies, the government is turning to SMEs as a means of economic development and a means of solving problems. It is also a seedbed of innovations, inventions and employment.

Along with human creativity and inventiveness, IP is all around us. Regardless of what product SMEs make or services they provide, it is likely that it is regularly using and creating a great deal of IP. This being the case, it is important that SMEs should consider how best to use the IP system to it own benefit.




Our discussion has been the role intellectual property (IP) law plays in the growth of Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) in Nigeria. Having recognized the fact that IP is one of the prime keys to National Development, the next step is to strengthen the machinery for it’s protection.

It has become clear that for any country, region, or continent to be actively involved in the global economy, it must be competitive. Competition flows from the protection of IP laws. It is also clear that majority of employed populations are engaged in SMEs in Nigeria. Therefore, there has to be sustainable funding for the SMEs if meaningful development is to be attained.

Managing an SME IP asset is more than acquiring the formal IP rights. Obtaining an IP protection is crucial to the growth and development of an SME. Managing an IP right involves an SMEs ability to commercialize it’s inventions, market it’s brands, licence it’s technological know-how and effectively monitor and enforce it’s IP rights.


Findings of this research point to two main causative factors below:

  1. Our attitude; which relates to our habits, way of doing things, way of thinking and approach to handling issues. SMEs in Nigeria are largely not properly structured, labour intensive, dependence on one key man, low level of capacity in management, technological know-how and marketing strategy. Moreso, as it relates to IP, when SMEs proprietors rights are infringe upon, they are reluctant to institute an action in court which has resulted in the dearth of case laws on the subject matter.
  2. Our environment; SMEs in Nigeria are burdened with a multitude of problems such as lack of an enabling environment in terms of poor or non-existent infrastructure like accessible road networks, lack of water supply, epileptic power supply, and access to finance. It also relates to government’s reluctant approach to policy enunciation, poor implementation of the policies and enforcement of IP laws.


 To effectively curb the menace of IP theft and premature death of SMEs, it is recommended that:

  1. There should be a proper review and amendments of IP laws in Nigeria by the enabling body.
  2. The government should introduce regular training of IP personnel to be abreast with international best practices.
  3. Domestication of WIPO treaties on IP rights.
  4. Appointment of IP experts and professionals to key offices to implement IP policies.
  5. Enforcement of IP laws and effective prosecution of counterfeiters
  6. Cooperation amongst industry practitioners, public-private partnership and stakeholder alike.
  7. Provision and maintenance of basic infrastructure
  8. Investment and financing of Research  and Development by government and SME owners
  9. Government should take step to improve patent quality
  10. Government should ensure that IPRs are available and enforceable at reasonable cost
  11. The Trademarks and Patent Registries should facilitate patent and trademark filling and prosecutions by SMEs i.e. expediting review of applications from SMEs.
  12. The government through the trademark and patent offices should institute outreach programs for SMEs proprietors in order to raise awareness about the importance of acquiring IP rights, improve SMEs IP asset management and increase opportunities for them to engage with IP officials
  13. The government should assist SMEs by providing infrastructural facilities and social amenities like; accessible road networks, constant water supply, regular electricity and efficient communication.
  14. Government should create awareness programmes to enable SMEs make informed decisions on how to exploit their innovative and creative potential using the IP system.


IP is part of every aspect of life. It has become the most powerful tool that SMEs can use in order to survive and grow in today’s highly competitive business environment.

SMEs are beginning to realize that intangible assets are becoming more valuable for competiveness of a business. Therefore, SMEs should take reasonable steps to legally protect their intangible assets by acquiring and maintaining IP rights.

The secret behind the success of self reliant strategy is mainly in peoples positive attitudes to enterprise and in the extent to which the right incentive is adequate enough to make risks worth taking than in any particular political philosophy. In the early stages of Japan’s industrialization, her economy was dominated by a large number of small scale enterprises, who drew their strength not from an abundance of capital, but from her vast supply of labour, and the abundant advantages of small scale industries. Nigeria and Nigerians need to learn from the Japan’s experience.

Nigeria should try and develop it’s IP based industries in production and distribution of goods and services which are the commanding heights of the global economy.


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