Local response
Attorney's role


While the world is grappling with the effects of the covid-19 pandemic, the IP world has continued to be plagued by another pandemic – counterfeiting.

A "counterfeit" is a fake product; an imitation of a genuine product that is often of inferior quality and is made and sold with the sole purpose of deceiving consumers as to its content and origin. Counterfeiters usually infringe on the IP rights of brand owners by passing off their goods as being made by them.

Counterfeiting crosses international boundaries and affects people globally. Its effects include:

  • threat or danger to the health and safety of consumers;
  • substantial harm to the global economy by stifling the legitimate economy and creating underground economies that deprive governments of revenue to provide public amenities;
  • support for and financing of organised crime;
  • incitement of child labour; and
  • discouragement of innovation.

For brand owners that have built brands and businesses through hard work, research and innovation, the effects of counterfeit goods include harm to:

  • sales of genuine brands;
  • brand reputations; and
  • long-term trust cultivated with consumers and other business partners.

Brand owners are often left to deal with the consequences of counterfeits, compelling them to spend time and resources fighting the problem.

In response to this issue, in addition to the conventional methods of fighting counterfeiting (eg, litigation, border measures and technological authentication), governments, IP attorneys and other stakeholders globally must continue to devise new anti-counterfeiting measures and strategies.

Local response

In Nigeria, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has proven to be an effective and cost-efficient recourse in fighting counterfeiters and counterfeit goods. NAFDAC is an agency that aims to safeguard public health by ensuring that only standard and high-quality drugs, foods and other regulated products are manufactured, imported, distributed, advertised, sold and used in Nigeria. The agency's objective is to prevent counterfeit, unwholesome and substandard products from reaching the Nigerian market.

NAFDAC has an enforcement directorate that is empowered to seize, detain and destroy:

  • counterfeit products in circulation; or
  • products that do not comply with NAFDAC registration requirements.

A police squad attached to this directorate is authorised to arrest any person suspected of committing an offence under the NAFDAC Act.

Proactive IP attorneys in Nigeria have taken advantage of this mechanism against counterfeiters, cooperating with the enforcement unit to conduct dawn raids on counterfeiters. Such raids are often the start of a regulatory probe into the activities of counterfeiters.

A case involving counterfeit detergent products in local markets illustrates how effective recourse to NAFDAC can be in combatting the activities of counterfeiters. The client, the global proprietor of a well-known trademark, discovered counterfeits of its products on the market nationwide being produced by a prominent indigenous company. The counterfeit product was a lookalike of the client's product, with similar packaging and a similar trademark. It was sold at a reduced rate and marked with fake NAFDAC registration numbers to further deceive the public that it had the approval of the agency. Through the joint efforts of NAFDAC and IP attorneys, the market was successfully rid of the counterfeit detergents.

Attorney's role

To make the most of this remedy, attorneys should follow the steps set out below.

  • The attorney receives information of a market survey or investigations conducted by the client or distributor. The purpose of the market investigation is to purchase samples of the counterfeit goods as future evidence and identify details including:
    • the locations where the counterfeit goods are packaged, stored and produced;
    • the sales distribution network; and
    • the price and sales volume of the counterfeit goods.
  • The attorney reports the information to the NAFDAC zonal office that is nearest to the operations or activities of the counterfeiters.
  • The attorney compiles a detailed report about the activities of the counterfeit products and counterfeiters in the market. The report should be addressed to the director general of NAFDAC, who will refer it to the NAFDAC legal department enforcement unit. The report should include the following, among other things:
  • information and evidence collected during discovery investigations;
  • pictures of the counterfeit goods in the market;
  • product samples of the client's authentic products and the counterfeit products; and
  • evidence of the client's rights to the mark or brand.

If NAFDAC is fully convinced that there is a case against the alleged counterfeiters, being statutorily empowered, it may take steps to:

  • conduct a dawn raid on the counterfeiters;
  • seize, detain and destroy counterfeit goods;
  • seal up premises where counterfeits are packaged, stored and produced; and
  • prosecute counterfeiters in court.

Therefore, the success of this procedure may depend on the attorney's ability to establish a good case against the counterfeiters.

For further information on this topic please contact Bunmi Binitie at Abdulai Taiwo & Co by telephone (+234 1 496 7982) or email ([email protected]). The Abdulai Taiwo & Co website can be accessed at