Enforcing Copyright Laws Key To Growing Sports Business In Nigeria – Barr Agbakoba-Onyejiana

Nigeria needs a more robust enforcement of Intellectual Property (IP) rights laws in order to stimulate confidence and attract innovators and creatives who can help revolutionize the business of sports in the country according to leading sports lawyer Barrister Beverly Agbakoba-Onyejiana.

Barrister Agbakoba-Onyejiana was speaking at the World Intellectual Property Day Celebrations held on Friday in the conference hall of the Lagos chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) at the National Stadium, Surulere, where she delivered a keynote lecture titled Intellectual Property Law and Sports Business in Nigeria.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the World Intellectual Property Day which is celebrated every April 26 was established in 2000 to raise awareness on how patents, copyrights, trademarks and designs impact on daily life and to celebrate creativity and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe.

This year’s theme, “Reach for Gold: IP and Sports” seeks to explore how innovation, creativity and intellectual property rights encourage, protect and support the development of sport and its enjoyment around the world.

And Barrister Agbakoba-Onyejiana who is also a member of the National Economic Summit Group (NESG) Sports Thematic Industry Group believes that Nigeria’s population and level of expertise favourably disposes it to not just drive innovation in sports locally but also to compete on a global scale.

However, in order to unlock the massive potential of sports business in Nigeria through innovation, she says more lawyers well versed in intellectual law are needed in the sports sector to help proffer solutions that will attract innovators and investors and help them secure economic value for their work.     

“As a sports loving nation, Nigeria has not just the human population, we have the intellectual capacity and expertise to compete on a global scale [but] we need more lawyers who are versed in intellectual property law. We need more sports lawyers who obviously understand the ins and outs of the industry to begin to come together and proffer solutions,” Barrister Agbakoba-Onyejiana told busybuddiesng.com.

Barrister Agbakoba-Onyejiana says her work as a member of the NESG is geared towards creating “a policy to help redefine how we view the sports industry in Nigeria, how to commercialise sports in Nigeria and take it away from being a sector that is seen as for the downtrodden, a sector that is seen as for people with no options and rather for creative innovators: people that have clubs, people that have merchandise brands to come in and really begin to get economic value for the work that they’re putting in and moreover there’s a massive need to stem counterfeiting.”

Stemming counterfeiting according to Barrister Agbakoba-Onyejiana lies not so much in creating new copyright right laws but in the vigorous enforcement of existing laws and creating awareness about the dangers of counterfeiting at grassroots level.

“Enforcement is the problem, Nigeria we are very intelligent we have a plethora of laws, laws are not the problem, how do we enforce, how do we get more agencies involved, how do we even take the awareness to the streets because it is about grassroots. We can seat in fancy offices passing laws and at the grassroots level they’re ineffective so we really need to come up with very pragmatic solutions to discourage counterfeiting because it’s the grassroots that will help us. It’s from the bottom up not from the top down.”

“Nigerians need to know that it is only when the laws are very energetically enforced that the business of sports can grow indigenously until then we will be at the mercy of foreigners. We will not be able to have innovation, creativity and development here in Nigeria. All the innovation creativity and development we enjoy will be what is imported and brought to us,” adds Dr. Ogaga Ifowodo, who chaired the event’s organizing committee.

Dr. Ifowodo who also heads the Board of Trustees of the Friends of The Creator (Artistic) Foundation (FCF) also said while a lot can still be done by enforcing existing copyright laws, the country must start thinking towards enacting laws that reflect the growing influence of digital technology on Intellectual Property rights.

“People elsewhere are going to what they call the second generation of rights in this area for instance in the digital world, how do you deal with Intellectual Property rights in the digital context? We are still too much in the analogue context, but I’m saying that even if we were to enforce the analogue part of it, we will make great mileage and attain a huge amount of success.

“But at the same time, we need to also pay attention to the various ways in which copyrights and intellectual property rights can be breached using media technology. it’s a new area, it’s still developing but other countries are already legislating to protect rights that are more enjoyed these days and transmitted through digital technology.”

The World Intellectual Property Day: “Reach For Gold: IP & Sports” was organized by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Friends of The Creator (Artistic) Foundation (FCF), National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and the Lagos State chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN).