Nigeria Needs an Intellectual Property Policy that Supports Non-Interest Finance

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Friday, October 1, 2021 / 11:00 AM / Bukola Akinyele-Yisau for WebTV / Header Image Credit: WebTV


Nigeria needs an intellectual property policy that supports the growth of the Non-Interest finance sector and its entire ecosystem. Dr. Abdullahi Ishola, Lecturer, Department of Islamic Law, Kwara State University, Malete made this point while discussing "Islamic Intellectual Property: Opportunities for Nigeria".


According to him, intellectual property right refers to the legal protection given to intellectual products through the law depending on the nature of its production. An instance is a Book/Inscription on a paper as evidence of creative writing, and this will determine IP rights as Copyright, Trademark, Industrial Design, Trade Secrets and Patent.


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Speaking on Intellectual Property from an Islamic law perspective, he said Islamic IP needs to be understood as a separate concept, but under the property called al-Mal. He explained further that Hanafi school of thought conceived property as tangible objects. Many jurists believed a property could be both tangible and intangible.


He described Islamic Intellectual Property as any product of the mind and creativity to which Islamic Law (Shari'ah) would accord protection through conferment of enforceable rights on them.


This means they are seen as properties that can be possessed and owned, while its owner can do with it what any other property owner can do with their property, such as sales, transfer, gift, endowment, inheritance.


He noted that the difference between conventional and Islamic Intellectual Property is that Islamic IP does not protect any product of the mind, unlike traditional IP. Islamic IP must be compliant with acceptable innovation in the Islamic religion and global innovation.


Speaking on IP and Investment in Licensed Trade Secret, The Islamic lecturer explained that Nigeria is facing many legal challenges, as there is no specific law in the country on Trade Secrets. But currently, the legal protection is from the judicial approach on employers and ownership.


He tasked Nigerians to take the opportunity of Intellectual Property, Citing IsDB as a multilateral institution that has used Islamic IP through collaboration with WIPO.  The IsDB recently provided $500m for its transform fund.


He said the IsDB initiatives in IP are for innovators to develop their ideas and facilitate technology commercialization among the IsDB member countries. 


The Islamic finance sector in Nigeria was challenged to learn from IsDB initiatives to understand that Islamic IP is not just a theoretical concept but can be practicalized.


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Speaking on the challenges of structured price discovery and its effect on the IP assets, the Islamic finance expert decried that there is none at the moment all over the world because it has to be made appealing through legal protection. 


He said the essence of IP is to make it attractive to the intellectual producer of such a product, which is done through legal protection.


Ishola noted that the Islamic finance industry in Nigeria needs to understand that the IP outlet will most likely produce returns but require packaging, public presentation, and marketing if seriously invested in. All these are fundamental in attracting an excellent price to IP products. 


On the role of IP in attracting Foreign Direct investments for Nigeria, he said Islamic IP is transparent. He cited the IsDB WIPO model can be adopted by the non-interest finance sectors in partnership with IP regulatory institutions like the Nigerian Copyright Commission and Registrar of Trademarks.


Also, he said Nigeria should think of floating a commercialized Islamic IP such as Halal Certification and standard Islamic Finance Research Institutes.


Looking at the regulatory challenges to commercializing IPs as financial assets, he said no regulatory challenges exist in commercializing IP. There are some developments in Halal Certification in Nigeria, and it was essential to understand the Shari'ah position.


Citing the AAIOFI Shari'ah standard 42 (2012), he said it recognizes that IP owners can commercialize it, also noted the  IFA-OIC Resolution No. 43 (515): which emphasized:  "The Business Name, corporate name, trademark, literally production, invention and discovery have a tradeable financial value".

  

According to him, the contribution of Islamic finance to Nigeria's economy is visible, but there is room for growth potential.


He said to drive corporate growth and profitability, there is a need for proper orientation that the Islamic finance segment is not a charitable institution but a commercial outlet.


Dr. Ishola also noted another angle: the focus needs to shift from product development as layer application within each sector.


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He believed it was an opportunity to develop Islamic finance products that could be commercialized and make investors and investees have value for their investments.


Ishola stressed the need to invest in the intellectual production sector in research in Islamic finance and the need to see it as an opportunity for Islamic funds investment.


For him, it was not just focusing on financing and all other sectors like Sukuk. Still, the Nigeria Islamic finance sectors need to look into how to maximize the opportunity available in financial, intellectual production.


He cited ISRA and ISRI institutions impacting knowledge in Malaysia, making use of the opportunity. Also, he added that there is a need to commercialize trade secrets and legal reform. At the same time, regulatory bodies like CBN, SEC, NAICOM PENCOM should develop IP policy for the Islamic finance sector and partner with all the regulators in the country.


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