Labour Crisis and Employee’s Invention: Need for Authoritative Legislation

C.J.S. Azoro, A.N. Umeh


The dawn of industrialization was sustained by the protection of intellectual property rights on the basis that every man has the right to benefit from the fruits of his intellect and ideas. One of the mechanisms that have helped in the area of protecting ideas and inventions over the years has being the use of patents. Industrialization is made possible by good labour relations based on the continuous mutual adjustments of the respective interests and goals of the employers and employees. In order to avoid labour crisis and further industrialization, certain duties are implied by law between the employers and the employees. One of such duties as it concerns employees is the duty of faithful service which necessarily involves the disclosure of employee’s inventions or discoveries to the employer where same was made in the course of his employment. Such disclosure however, raises the issue of proprietary right to its patent. As a result, the ownership of any patentable invention tends sometimes to generate some form of discord between the parties. The common law which originally provides for the rules in settling such discord is not all-encompassing and appears to be harsh on the employee. In order to maintain good relation, the Patents and Designs Act [1] has intervened with a view to filling the lapses at common law. However, the salving effect of the ‘messianic-statute’ is more than meets the eyes, since the statute is no more than a declaration of the common law principles. The essence of this article therefore, is to critically examine the statute vis-à-vis similar statutes in other common law countries and make the necessary recommendations.


patent, intellectual property, invention, industrialization, labour relations.

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F.O. Babafemi, Intellectual Property: The Law and Practice of Copyright, Trade Marks, Patent and Industrial Designs in Nigeria,Justinian Books Ltd, Nigeria, 2006, p. 342.

Head of Federal Military Govt. v Public Service Commission & Ors. Ex Parte Maclean Kubeinje (1974) 11 SC 79.

D. Bainbridge, Intellectual Property, 4th edn., Longman, London, 2002, p. 4 et seq.

Electrolux Ltd. v Hudson (1977) FSR 312; Greater Health Board Applications (1996) RPC 207.

Nabhan v Nabhan (1967) 1 ALL NLR 47; Anya v State (1966) NMLR 62.

G.O.S. Amadi, “Employees Invention and the Contract of Employment”, (1989-1990)4 N.J.R. pp. 59-69.

British Reinforced Concrete v Lind (supra); British Syphon Co. v Homewood (1956) RPC 225.

Hepple & O’Higgins, Employment Law, 4th edn., Sweet and Maxwell, London, 1979, p. 212.

British Reinforced Concrete v Lind (1917) 34 R.P.C. 101; Adamson v Kemsworthy (1932) 49 R.P.C. 57; British Celanese v Moncrieff (1948) Ch. 564.

A.S. Hornby (ed.), Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary of Current English, 7th edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006, p. 786.

Copyright (c) 2014 C.J.S. Azoro, A.N. Umeh

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