Intellectual PropertyIntellectual Property as a valuable Asset in Aviation

June 15, 2012by Olufola Wusu3

Quite a number of more people are discovering that general aviation is fast, efficient, and safe, opening a whole new window of travel opportunities for both business and personal travel. Aviation benefits passengers and freight with swift, cost-effective transportation; it contributes to the overall economic growth of our nation, provides significant revenues to our national purse, creates a large numbers of high-value jobs, provides extensive benefits to international trade and tourism, facilitates law enforcement, saves lives and aids agriculture.

Intellectual Property as a valuable asset in aviation

Intellectual Property becomes a valuable asset to the airlines and public institutions, when it is registered and steps are taken to prevent competitors from accessing and using it for free, more value is even derived when the owner of such Intellectual Property actively seeks to commercialise his intellectual assets by synergising with other airlines or companies willing to use his Intellectual Assets for a fee in exchange for a license.

Legal regime covering Intellectual Property

The laws enumerated below make up the legal regime for the protection of Intellectual Property Rights in Nigeria.

Copy Right Act, Cap. C 28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

Patents and Designs Act, Cap P2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004; and

Trade Marks Act, Cap. T13 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004   Airborne Intellectual Property;

The basic types of Intellectual property prevalent in the Aviation sector are the following; Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, Trade Secrets and Others like brands, Know-How and Professional Credentials & Credibility.


A patent is a document issued, upon application by a government office (or a regional office acting for several countries), which describes an invention and creates a legal situation in which the patented invention can only be legally exploited (manufactured, used, sold, imported) with the authorization of the owner of the patent Patents in Nigeria typically provide protection for a period of 20 years from the filing of the application for patent grant. A patent will be granted in respect of an invention if it is new, result from inventive activities and is capable of industrial application; or if it constitutes an improvement upon a patented invention and also is new, results from inventive activity and is capable of industrial application. Section 1 of the Patents and Designs Act, Cap P2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 (the Patent Act) Section 51 and 52 of Civil Aviation Act no. 6 of 2006 also relates to patents in aviation

Trade secrets

A “trade secret” is defined as any product, operating formula, pattern, device or other compilation of information which is used in a business, which gets its economic value from being kept secret, and gives the business a competitive advantage. The Aviation industry also relies on trade secret protection. Innovation ranging from advancements in aircraft assembly, performance, maintenance, flight simulation and advancements in airline operations are confidential and fiercely protected as trade secrets.


Copyright exists in creative and artistic works such as aviation books, movies, photographs and aviation software. A copyright gives the holder of such copyright the exclusive right to control exploitation, production and adaptation of such a work for a certain period of time. Copyright protection is particularly important to the Aviation industry in the protection of databases and maps.  


The first “flight” in any great aviation company is a good name. It should be registered as a trademark. A trademark is usually a word, your name; but it can also be a logo, a website , a tag line “Just does it”. In choosing a name, it is wise to consider a name that is distinctive.  

Brand Protection for Aviation Companies

Aviation companies develop good reputations associated with their brand names and will definitely benefit from the registration of their trademarks. International protection of company trademarks is also very important. However air safety should be the number one concern of aviation companies and as such more efforts should be made to properly tackle the issue of safety in air travel otherwise there will be nothing left of Aviation Brands.

Industrial Designs Industrial design rights protects the form of appearance, style or design of an industrial object for example Air craft spare parts, Airline Passenger Cabins, Airliner Flight Decks and External Styling/Aesthetics of Aircraft.  

Airborne I.P. –The way forward

The American Experience

The Boeing Company in America has been identified as one of America’s top innovators among aerospace companies based on the number of new patents it has received and the strength of its patent portfolio.

The need to leverage on Intellectual Property

Airlines and Aviation companies need to leverage on their “pipeline power” —which is usually measured by the originality and variety of patents, as well as the rate of increase in number of patents obtained.

The need for Research and Innovation

The Aviation Industry in Nigeria needs to nurture the kinds of inventions and patents in its research and development efforts that will increase the long-term strength of Nigeria’s Aviation industry. Large Aviation companies and Small Aviation companies can provide a rich environment in which innovation can thrive.  

Intellectual Property Management unit (IPM)

Aviation companies need an Intellectual Property Management unit (IPM) that will help them create, protect and leverage on their intellectual property.

Anti-Counterfeiting measures and Aviation safety

A plane belonging to a certain airline crashed in Davao in 2000, it killed all 131 people on board, and it was described as the worst air accident in Philippine history. The crash was believed to have been caused by “counterfeit and faulty aircraft parts.” Sometime ago a plane smashed into Buga a Colombian mountainside on December 20, 1995, killing 151 passengers and 8 crew members, it is reported that outlaw salvagers didn’t even wait for all 159 victims’ bodies to be collected before they moved in to extract engine thrust reversers, cockpit avionics and other valuable components from the shattered Boeing 757. (

Need to curb the menace of “Tokunbo Parts”

Parts illegally salvaged from crashes, counterfeit parts and other substandard components regularly find their way into the world’s air fleets, sold at bargain prices, often with falsified documents about their origin or composition, your guess is as good as mine as regards where such planes and parts are usually dumped. Counterfeit aviation and automobile spare parts, aviation fuel and pharmaceuticals, are dangerous to the safety, health and lives of Nigerians and should be intercepted and destroyed.             


The Aviation industry has been described as a “knowledge industry” because of the quick evolution of technology in recent times. Simply owning intellectual property rights does not generate money. To produce income the owners of these Airborne IP rights must exploit them financially through various types of commercial agreements including but not limited to licensing arrangements, joint ventures, and/or assignments   of rights. In a way, these commercial agreements are an attempt to turn intellectual property into intellectual capital that will then increase your cash flow.

Megathos Law Practice © 2012


Olufola Wusu


  • laolu7

    June 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    intresting post, i want to ask if you are suggesting that airbone ip is a sub-component of the larger brand-aviation itself or its a standalone


    • Olufola Wusu Esq

      June 19, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      Interesting question Laolu,
      Both Branding and Airborne IP are parts of the bundle of IP rights in Aviation. Aviation is a knowledge based industry thus it has quite a lot of Airborne IP covering phases from take off to landing and from the cockpit to the tail of the plane.
      It is however interesting to note the the Cape Town convention does not specifically mention Airborne IP.


  • Andira

    July 18, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    i always enjoy coming back to this blog for posts like this.


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