WIPO admits Nigerian NGO to permanent observer status

In what appears a first in the history of Nigeria’s intellectual property management, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an organ of the United Nations, has just admitted a Nigerian NGO, Friends of the Creators Artistic Foundation (FCF), as a Permanent Observer.

According to WIPO, “Once an observer is admitted to attend the meetings of the Assemblies, it is also invited to attend, in the same capacity, meetings of committees, working groups, or other bodies subsidiary to the Assemblies, if their subject matter seems to be of direct interest of the observer”.

The decision for the admission, which came in during the week, was reached at the ongoing WIPO 59th Series of Meetings (from September 30 through October 9) taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, with over 1,000 delegates from WIPO’s 192 member states in attendance.

The meeting is being watched and followed live by ‘Citizens Court’ through webcast since September 30. WIPO Assemblies 2019 has ‘Conversation on Intellectual Property and Artificial Intelligence’ as its theme.

FCF, which was co-founded by Dr. Ogaga Ifowodo and an entertainment lawyer expert, Mr. Rockson Igelige, was formally incorporated in 2017, with headquarters in Oleh, Delta State, Nigeria.

The objectives of the NGO are, inter alia, to create awareness of copyright, to document intellectual property infringement cases in Nigeria and to promote intellectual property rights through campaigning, advocacies and other avenues.

FCF, an award-winning NGO, had commemorated World Intellectual Property Day celebration, with lectures and other activities, in collaboration with Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), among others, in Nigeria for three consecutive times.

Other NGOs admitted alongside FCF as Permanent Observers include such international organizations as Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) – America; International Generic and Biosimilar medicine Association (IGBA) – Switzerland and Knowman Institute – Germany.

Others are national organizations such as Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society Ltd (ALCS) – London, UK; Brand Protection Group (BPG) – Lebanon; Myanmar Intellectual Property Proprietors’ Association (MIPPA) – Myanmar; Native American Rights Fund (NARF) – USA; and Professional Union of Broadcasting Organizations (RATEM) – Turkey.

Reacting to the development, the Secretary, Board of Trustees and Co-founder of FCF, Igelige expressed delight, stating that the admission would not just make FCF stronger, but also inspire the foundation to work harder in a bid to fulfill its core mandate. He thanked the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nigerian Permanent Representative in Geneva and the Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) for the critical role they played in ensuring the application of FCF is given due consideration.

A statement from the Nigerian delegation made some important observations to WIPO’s General Assembly and its Director-General, Mr. Francis Gurry. It said Nigeria has concluded plans for the takeoff of WIPO External Office in Abuja, adding, “This has strengthened our resolve to continue to preserve the role of WIPO as the key multilateral body in charge of setting rules and principles on Intellectual Property (IP).

“Nigeria is pleased to observe that the institutional strengthening of WIPO is gaining momentum. As a multilateral agency of the UN system that gathers round member countries, an organization whose deliberations are increasingly transparent, with active participation by representatives of both the private sector and civil society, WIPO presents an inclusive platform for the debates on the evolution of the international system of Intellectual Property.

“In Nigeria, we have achieved tangible results in the process of reform and improvement of our Intellectual Property system. The registries of Trademarks and Patents and Designs have been separated. Each is now independent and aligned to its operating legislation (of Trademarks Act, and the Patent and Designs Act).

“We have intensified national public enlightenment campaigns across the country. This is aimed at promoting awareness and respect for IP. We commend the activities of WIPO Distance Learning Academy, particularly on the positive impact of courses of the academy in fulfilling our training needs and requirement.”

“We have accelerated our digitization process and reduced the time frame for processing applications. To this end, we thank the Africa Bureau for its efforts towards addressing the myriad of issues our delegation presented to them. These include – the setting up of a national training academy, training of trainers, examination and opposition training and other capital base activities.

“We call on WIPO and all Member States to continue to work towards convergence of international governance in the fields of Intellectual Property. This would give concrete expression to principles of coexistence that guide us, while we remain resolute in upholding the principles of Intellectual Property.

“Nigeria will continue to participate actively in deliberations at WIPO. We reaffirm our commitment to work with all Member States to strengthen the organization.”

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