By Heman Zakaria
Technology commercialization is the process of transitioning technologies from research labs or stations to market place, this activity is complimentary to the process of publishing research findings. Part of the public service mission is to ensure that the results of its research are made available for public use and benefit.
This is accomplished in many ways from educating students, to publishing results of research and ensuring that inventions are developed into useful products and services for the benefits f the public. Since the public service mission is not into the business of making and selling new products and services, it looks to partner with industry to commercialize these inventions.
The process of commercialization of technological projects includes patenting.
A patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention granted by any countries patent and trademark office, federal ministry of science and technology or federal ministry of commerce as the case may be, in exchange for public disclosure of the invention, utility patent are the most common type of patent and are provided for a new nonobvious and useful; process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter and improvement of any of the listed.
Inventions that are novel, nonobvious, adequately described or enabled or claimed by the inventor in clear and definite terms can be patented, but laws of nature, physical phenomena, abstract ideas and literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works (which can be copyright protected) cannot be patented.
The phases of technology commercialization involve invention disclosure, protection, marketing and licensing. While the processes of technology commercialization are production, distribution, marketing, sales and customer support. This technological commercialization involves science, law and business activities that lead to the development of products beneficial to the general public.
Patenting in Nigeria
National Office for Technological Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) is the national office that has been mandated to assist in the patenting of all inventions and innovations carried out by government funded research institutes and other private sector. In doing so, National Office for Technological Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) through its information network provides the following services:
Link the inventors with patent offices all over the world,
Assist inventors in drafting patent applications covering the invention in question,
Process patent application through industrial property office.
The modern Nigerian law on patent is governed by the Patents and Design Acts Cap. 344 of the law of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 (Act of 1970). It is administered by the registrar of patent, trademark and industrial design which is under the umbrella of the Federal Ministry of Commerce Abuja, Nigeria. The law provides that a patent may be granted for an invention that is:
New, involves an inventive step (not obvious),
Capable of industrial application,
Not specifically excluded in the act (for example; inventions that the publication of which may encourage immoral and offensive behaviors),
An address for service in Nigeria if the applicants address is outside Nigeria and
Application must date only to one invention but may cover claims for any number of products or processes.
Problems Associated with Patenting in Nigeria
The most common problems associated with patenting in Nigeria are:
- High cost of patenting,
- Copyright infringement,
- Trademark infringement,
- Lack of international standard,
- Vague definitions of new, unique work and
- Corruption at all level.
Way Out to Patent Infringement in Nigeria
Notice of Objection: when a registered trademark is being infringed upon, the owner of the trademark has the right to submit a notice of objection to the trademark’s registry.
Formal Application: presenting a written request for the trademark’s cancellation of the trademark registrar. However, this has to be backed by proof that the owner registered the mark in the past.
Notification of Cease and Desist: Owners can enforce their rights by sending a cease-and-desist letter to the offending party that describes the trademark that is being violated and warns the offender to stop and desist from continuing the infringement or face legal repercussions.
Civil Action: damages, injunctive relief, an order from the court requiring the infringer to account for the infringement and pay the proprietor any profits and the delivery up or destruction of the infringing item or products among other remedies are all accessible to the owner under this action.
Effective Ways to Lead Technology Commercialization Projects in Nigeria
An effective way Nigerian government can effectively lead technology commercialization is through:
- Increase investment in research and development,
- Make copyrighting and patenting seamless and affordable,
- Provide power to make innovation cheaper,
- Enact policies that are consistent to achieving the goal of technological advancement in the country,
- Invest in education,
- Create a synergetic link between the research station and institutions to the market (industrial sector),
- Create strict laws that guide against manipulation and infringement by industry experts on non-patented products,
- Creation and provision of grants and collateral free loans for innovator, researchers and industry start-ups,
- Government should seek for and connect foreign investment that will boost local innovation and boost human capital. In conclusion, technology commercialization projects in Nigeria will help create new start up businesses and expand the product lines of existing companies. Technology commercialization will also increase business to business transactions as commercialized technologies are frequently used in manufacturing processes rather that sold to the consumers. This can be achieved through investment in research and protection of innovations, ideas and solutions of innovators.