LAWYER OF THE WEEK — Rita Anwiri
Over the past week, Legal Pages had the opportunity of speaking to Rita Anwiri Chindah, an Intellectual Property Lawyer renowned for her enlightening Intellectual Property series across several social media platforms. In this interview, she shares her journey into the profession and quite significantly, lets us into the world of IP.
Can we meet you?
Hi! My name is Rita Anwiri Chindah and my core areas of specialization are Intellectual Property & Information Technology, and Arbitration as a tool in Alternate Dispute Resolution.
Can you give a breakdown of your academic journey so far?
I had my primary education at Glory Christian Academy Port Harcourt, went to Our Lady of Fatima Borokiri, Port Harcourt; did my LLB at Madonna University, Okija and graduated in 2011; went for my masters in 2013 at the University of Derby (UK), studied Intellectual Property & Information Technology and graduated in 2014; did a training on Dispute Management and Negotiation Skills with the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) and the entry course training with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) (UK) Nigeria Branch in 2015; went to Law School in 2015 and graduated in 2016; did the Arbitration advocacy training with CIArb, Nigeria in 2017 and some other courses around my area of speciality via edX, Coursera and WIPO.
Did you always set out to study law? What influenced the choice of IP law?
Not really. When I was younger I had a knack for fixing things around the house and always thought I would be an engineer while my parents wanted me to become a doctor (my parents are medical practitioners). However, that changed when I was in SS2, I found out I loved arts more and enjoyed literature so I opted for law. It took a while for my Dad to accept that I wasn’t going to take after him such that he came to my school to tell them that he wanted me to be a science student. I was invited to the office of the Guardian & Counsellor so we could talk things out. At the end of the session, my dad chose about ten/eleven courses (can’t remember again), however, during the midterm break, I had to do an appendectomy surgery which made me miss a lot of classes and I finally ended up with nine courses but it’s fine now.
As we all know and like I have always emphasised, IP is everywhere—from the books you read, songs you listen to, movies you watch, clothes you wear, the drugs we take, evolution of the telephones, televisions, computers, buildings etc. I have always been fascinated with the strange and unanticipated evolution of the global economy (I still am, IP news excites me), about how the relentless rise of new technology has made intellectual property the new oil and the most valuable asset that any company/brand can possess. So when IP was introduced in my final year I didn’t think twice about it and offered it as an elective course and when I was ready to do my masters, I choose IP as a pathway for my LLM. My knowledge of the global economy spurred my interests and influenced my decision so I opted for a fusion of IP and IT law.
What move or decision can you say has made the most impact in your legal career?
I would say going for my Master’s before law school gave me a sense of direction on the pathway I wanted to specialize in and also led me to arbitration.
If there was anything you could change as a student at undergraduate level and at the NLS, what would that be?
I guess I would have done more internships as an undergraduate student and at NLS, made a first class.
What advice do you have for new wigs and students who are currently looking to practice especially in the IP, Entertainment and Media Sector?
For anyone who wishes to specialize in IP, Entertainment and Media, first of all, you need to be sure that this is the area you want to specialize in and not because it’s a trendy area of practice; follow the right people i.e. experts on social media, subscribe to IP blogs and institutions to be abreast of hot topics, write about it and speak about it.
It’s in the news that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are leaving the royal family to become financially independent. It’s also known that they have a trademark application over the brand name “Sussex Royal.” As an IP expert, in what ways can revenue be generated from trademarks?
It is true that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex applied to trademark ”SUSSEX ROYAL” to be used for products such as clothing and stationery, as well as campaigning and charitable fundraising which is currently in the opposition period. However, a notice of threatened opposition was filed by an Australian doctor which automatically extended the opposition period by one month. Although it not a formal opposition, the notice is an indication that a third-party is preparing a full opposition.
An IP owner can generate revenue by having a good IP portfolio and then start by registering their trademark in order to enjoy the full benefits, consider exploiting and commercializing their trademark through licensing of their logo, sign etc, selling it outrightly, a brand expansion which big brands like Amazon with about 1,100 registered trademarks do and also consider merchandising. For instance, Frozen 2 has made $1.9 billion just from merchandise.
So you can see that there a lot of ways a trademark owner can generate revenue.
What are the challenges and prospects of online education in present day Nigeria seeing that you’re actively involved in teaching IP on social media platforms?
Challenges: Sometimes, it is time consuming as it takes me between 2-3 hours to do a Twitter thread of my #IPSERIES with my phone. I also have network issues and it could be frustrating but we move, right.
Prospect: Because the Internet is a global community, you have access to reach out to people from various jurisdiction which fosters interaction and knowledge sharing. It is a good networking opportunity, you also get to prioritize being consistent in what you do.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years, I should be a recognized IP lawyer and Arbitrator globally, have a reputable IP consulting firm, be an IP lecturer and I should either be concluding my PhD or starting one.
Any final words for Nigerian youths generally?
Don’t let the pressure around get to you; be focused and determined, whatever is happening now is just a phase. Fear is a liar.
Below are links to Rita’s Social Media accounts where she publishes #IPSeries