Intellectual Property Rights Awareness amongst Postgraduate Students’: An Empirical Survey of Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER) of Benue State University, Makurdi- Nigeria.

By

Joseph Jar Kur PhD

Abstract

The  paper examined Postgraduate Students’ awareness  and perceptions of Intellectual Property (IP) mechanisms  and Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) using the Benue State University’s Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER) in Nigeria as the plot for the empirical research. The Research was anchored on the assertion that, universities have critical roles to play in providing the skills needed for innovations as the world migrates towards knowledge driven economy by which Universities practicalise their institutional capacities to convert knowledge and information into tangible economic assets. In this environment, critical stakeholders such as postgraduate students, lecturers and indeed the administration must have fair amount of awareness or knowledge of IPRs. In this paper, efforts were made to identify the level of awareness, modes of acquiring the knowledge of IPRs, questions of ownership of IP, conditions of patentability, licensing and commercialisation and IPRs policy considerations at the University. The empirical data were collected through questionnaire and interview method. A total of 115 questionnaires were distributed among the Nine (9) accredited programmes comprising 21.8% of doctorate (PhD); 69.0% of Masters ( MSc) degree and 9.2% of  Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) research students of the Centre. Eighty-Seven (87) representing (75.65%) were received. The findings demonstrate that, majority of the postgraduate students  representing 25.3% (strongly agreed) 2.3% (strongly disagreed) 63.2% (Agreed) 9.2% (disagreed) indicating  passive understanding of the IP system which they acquire through an informal and adhoc gathering processes than through a formal learning process that, can lead to the desired spin-offs that can help to create an emerging innovative business sector. The result equally found that, Benue State University do not have a well defined IPRs policy as advocated by World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and National Office of Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP). These scenario has created a weak policy base that is in itself   inhibitive of an effective IP system. The result calls for the need of the training aspect through a differential approach and needs of interest. That the University and the Centre  should develop a holistic IPR policy on ground and the curriculum of the programmes  tailored towards enriching the students’ knowledge of IP awareness for increased productivity and improved relevancy of achieving the desired results of postharvest losses prevention. The University should as a matter of urgency adopt an IPRs policy that will determine in clear terms, critical issues of IP ownership right, right to commercialisation and IP income sharing schemes among the stakeholders so as to avoid future possible litigations. Keywords: Right, Ownership, Patentable Inventions, Commercialisation, Publicly Funded Research, Postgraduate Students, Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEPTER), Benue State University.

  • Introduction

Adequate understanding and awareness have become indispensable tools in the dynamics of the knowledge- based economy and the 21st century. Accordingly, members of the university community-including Administrators, management, staff and students- should all have sufficient access to IP literacy and information. For the students, this necessarily involves gaining an understanding of their institutional IP policy and how it affects their potential rights and obligations; since most students more often than not engage in activities that may result into intellectual acquisitions and infringements. The inventions can occur, for instance, when students are working on entrepreneurship projects, when they are working in the laboratory experiment as part of their research experience or during industrial attachment. Some of these inventions as showed in table ”A” and “B” below could  have real economic value and may become patentable. The question that may arise then would be; who owns the patent and the intellectual property therein? The issue becomes germane because, student-generated IP may overlap the clear-cut employment context and raises other unique set of problem concerning ownership involving with other IP- related rights such as licencing and royalty collections.

Leveraging on the foregoing assumptions, the research seeks to find out if there exist any consensus in the university on how to manage IP generated by students whether undergraduate or postgraduate; how and when a university should claim ownership of student IP and the need to raise awareness about the key issues and decision points involved in the process. Other vital issues under consideration include, who owns the patent rights? Is ownership of patent different to ownership of result of research? What are the possible IP ownership schemes for inventions resulting from publicly-funded research?  What are the best approaches in dealing with IP issues at the university? In adumbrating on these issues, the research focuses on the Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEPTER) of  the Benue State University, the  partnership  which is a  programme funded by the World Bank in collaboration with Benue State University for control of post –harvest food losses; where students are engaged on developing programmes and projects that could make significant differences in reducing postharvest losses through ground breaking discoveries , innovations or inventive postharvest technologies. The Centre has student researchers from various disciplines such as chemistry who are targeting areas of chemistry that make food substances subject to spoilage quickly and how it can be prevented and extended. Some students in the Department of vocational and technical education who  develop projects that enable food preservation.  There are other students in physics Department who use solar energy technologies   to design equipment that can capture sunlight and concentrate it on drying food. In addition to the students,  research efforts, there are staff  on tenured appointments while some others are engaged on contract basis while a host of others are engaged as visiting staff all of who work in collaboration for postharvest research and evaluation exercises.

 

 

2.1 Objectives and Research Questions

The main   objectives of the research is to examine, Postgraduate students’ understanding of the Intellectual Property Law system in general and the patent system in particular as they undertake projects that do have  commercial  value and in some instances of patentable qualities in the execution of control of post-harvest food  losses at the  Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEPTER), The objective is to highlight the challenges that the university might face in the future and the need for the institution to overcome same through policy migration and adaption. Other objectives include the challenges in promoting and protecting intellectual property(IP) at the institution and illustrate why universities generally and in particular, Benue State University need to increase their efforts to educate students on what IP is and why it matters and its dictates. The research specially, adumbrate on the desire of Benue State University in making IP a key focus in her effort to leverage her research output, by obtaining a greater number of patents and then licensing them to industries with the hope of boosting her revenue base and speed the introduction  of the results of their research into the market.

3.1. The Legal   Dialectics of the Right of Ownership of Patentable Invention

3.1.1.   Legal Conceptions and Conditionality for Patent.

The Patents and Designs Act which is the governing legislation, does not proffer a definition of patents. Section 32 of the Act mainly defines a “patent application” as an application for the grant of  a patent and a “patentee”[1] as the person to whom a patent has been granted For the purpose of this paper,  a working definition of patent(s) is defined by Kur[2] and same is adopted that, “A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state to a patentee (the inventor or assigned) for a fixed period of time in exchange for the regulated, public disclosure of certain details of a device, method, process or composition of matter (substance) (known as an invention) which is new, constitute an inventive activity and is, useful or industrially applicable”[3]. The criteria for Patent Protection in Nigeria are governed by the Patents and Designs Act.[4] The relevant sections provides thus:Subject to this section, an invention is patentable (a) If it is new, results from inventive activity and is capable of industrial application; or (b) If it constitutes an improvement upon a patented invention and is also new, results from inventive activity and is capable of industrial application.”[5] Section 1(2) of the Act further interprets the applicability of section one above thus: “For the purposes of subsection 1 of this section (a) an invention is new if it does not form part of the state of the art;(b) an invention results from inventive activity if it does not obviously follow from the state of the art, either as to the method, the application, the combination of methods, or the product which it concerns, or as to the industrial result it produces; and (c) an invention is capable of industrial application if it can be manufactured or used in any kind of industry, including agriculture”.

The hallmark of section 1(1)(a) denotes a scenario of an invention while section 1(1)(b) denote the scenario of an innovation in the field of technology. Protectable subject matters refer to products or processes that are new and useful for diverse purposes including transport, health, communications, household equipment, et cetera. Ipso facto, patent may be used to protect new or improved electronics, mechanical and chemical products such as electric bulbs, motor vehicles, aeroplanes, different medicinal products, beauty care products, refrigerators, cookers, washing machines and other products.[6] The effect of a patent grant is to confer on the patentee, the right to exclude other certain commercial acts or exploitation of the invention, such as in cases where the patent has been granted in respect of a product, the act of: (a) making, (b) importing, (c) selling, (d) using or (e) stocking for sale or use of the product. And in cases where the patent has been granted in respect of a process, the act of (a) applying the process or (b) making, importing, selling, using, stocking for sale or use of the product obtained directly by means of the process. With the monopoly granted, the inventor has the right to prevent or stop others from competing with him so as to enable him recoup his investment in time, resources and mental ability or idea. The patentee may then take benefit of his labour by:

  1. Commercializing the product (and/or if a research tool, engage in further research on it).
  2. Giving licences to exploit the invention to others in return for monetary consideration.
  3. Share the benefits by collaborating with others in exploiting the invention. The right given to a patentee allows him to benefit from the fruits of his labour.

 

The law of patent focuses on functionality or usefulness of a product or process. According to WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation), the patent system contributes to technological development in five main ways:

(a)        As an incentive to creating new technology;

(b)        By providing an environment which facilitates the successful industrial application of new technology;

(c)        By facilitating technological transfer;

(d)        As an instrument of technological planning and strategy; and

(e)        Through the provision of an institutional framework which encourages flows of foreign investment.

Conversely, the scope of patentable subject matter is severally limited by the Act and the Act[7] provides as follows:

(a)        Plant or animal variety, or essentiality biological processes for the production of plants or animals (other than micro biological processes and their product); or

(b)        Inventions the publication or exploitation of which would be contrary to public order or morality

(c)        Principles and discoveries of a scientific nature are not inventions for the purposes of this Act.[8]

3.1.2 Non-obviousness, Prior Art and Development of Technologies for reducing Post-harvest Losses

The Patent Statute prohibits the granting of patent where the invention “…obviously follow from the state of the art”[9] either as to the method, the application, the combination of methods, or the product which it concerns, or as to the industrial result it produces. Indeed section 2(3) of the Act provides:

In subsection (2) of this section, “the art” means the art or field of knowledge to which an invention relates and “the state of the art” means everything concerning the art or field of knowledge which has been made available to the public anywhere and at anytime whatsoever (by means of a written or oral description, by use or in any other way) before the date of the filing of the patent application relating to the invention…

 

The implication of the non-obviousness requirement is that, before any invention or improved invention or innovation is to be granted a patent,[10] an applicant has to meet high procedural and substantive standards. The non-obviousness requirement is often considered the core requirement of patentability. It has been called the “Ultimate Condition of Patentability”.[11] An inventor is not entitled to a patent if her invention would have been obvious to someone working in the field, if that person took into account the entire “prior act” (everything in relevant fields that had been published, in public use, and so on).[12]The logicality of the grant of a patent is that, a claim which lacks novelty is said to be anticipated and a claim which lacks an inventive step is said to be obvious. Hence, to qualify for grant of a patent, the inventive step taken by the inventor must not be one which is obvious, or which follows logically from available information about the product or process. The inventor is required to have duly exercised his inventive faculty in a manner considered sufficiently ingenuous to justify the grant of the patent; otherwise the patent may be invalidated on the ground of lack of inventive activity. Obviousness therefore becomes a vital watch word for an innovator so as to save time, energy and resources over improvements that may in the end be qualified as lacking in inventive activity. Obviousness can be learnt from the ice-cold innovation project instance for the reduction of post-harvest losses otherwise known as the CoolBot system. The CoolBot system was spearheaded by one Dr. Jane Ambuko of the University of Nairobi, Kenya[13] wherein the inventor has designed and manufactured a cold storage that can preserve produce for at least two weeks as compared to two days for highly perishable fruits and vegetables exposed to room temperature. The CoolBot system, which uses a standard domestic air conditioner equipped with a control mechanism to maintain a room at the desired low temperature depending on the produce being stored. The system cost about 3,000 US Dollars. This post-harvest technology has been successfully introduced in Bangladesh, India and the United States.Similar innovative effort can be found in the  Solar Crop Dryers- Designed and constructed to replace the traditional open –to-sun technique to dry agricultural products and manure; As well as solar chicken brooders designed to replace electricity, kerosene or gas heated chick brooders[14].

  • Ownership of Intellectual Property Rights and University Policy Considerations

Depending on the policy of the university, newly generated student IP may be construed as belonging to either the institution or the student. In general, IP laws in each country- particurlary those legal systems that are rooted in English Common Law- grant default IP ownership rights to the inventor or author unless he or she knowingly agreed otherwise[15]. For there to be a legally binding contract, there must be consideration. That is, the university must give something in exchange for student’s rights to his or her invention. Thus university IP policy, as it relates to students, has to be carefully worded, widely disseminated and fair[16]. Universities do define the nature of intellectual Property and who may own same in the circumstances. In addressing the issue of ‘identification of university generated IPs’, the WIPO Guidelines under ‘coverage of IP Policy’ identifies eight IPs relevant to university researches namely: Patents, Utility Models, Industrial Designs, Copyright in literary works, Geographical Indications, Trademarks and Trade Secrets.[17]  The NOTAP Act  has similarly identified with the WIPO  but has added ‘Know-How.’[18]   The University of Ibadan identified all IPs in WIPO Guidelines and added “UI Logo”, technology-based materials in online courses and Distance learning, research proposals, traditional knowledge and any other IP-related assets, created by persons covered by the policy”[19].  The Ahmadu Bello University has equally  provided for Copyright, Patents, Electronic Online Materials and Trademarks.[20] It is instructive to observe further that, none of the universities mentioned and indeed several others have no provisions on Domain Names provisions and this is grave. The  Benue State University could leverage on this practical elsewhere to provide a conducive, comprehensive and up to date IP amenable guidelines that will include not just the routine IP species but that which will include BSU Logo, Electronic Online materials, domain names etc.

In addressing issues on ‘Ownership of IPs’, the WIPO model Guidelines provide for ‘the standard principle’[21] and provides as following:

i       University Ownership of IP

  • Course of Employment: Ownership is vested in the university if IP results from normal course of employment or responsibilities and /or if significant use of university resources (e.g. fund, university committed time, equipment, laboratory etc) is used.
  • University Commissioned Work: Unless varied by written agreement, university owns all IP( including ESW[22]) resulting from research by anybody hired or commissioned by the university for that purpose.
  1. Ownership of Sponsored or Collaborative Research
  • Sponsored Work: Ownership of sponsored research will be governed and determined by terms of the grant or agreement.
  • Collaborative Work: If there are several inventors in a collaborative research, ownership will be jointly shared subject to terms of collaborative agreement.

iii.         Individual Ownership

  • Individual Invention: IP generated by use of employee’s own time and without use of University’s resources belong to the employee.
  • Assigned Invention: University may refuse, fail, neglect or delay to file for patent application over which it asserts ownership. In such cases, the university may select to assign ownership to the true inventor(s); the individual Assignment may also be subject to application by the inventor to whom the university assigns in writing subject to sponsorship restrictions.
  • Students’ Researchers: All IP generated from students researchers belong to the students unless the said research enjoys university funding, grant or financial aid or resulting from significant use of university resources or is subject to terms of an external research grant or sponsorship agreements.
  • Exempted Scholarly Works (ESWs): these are Students’ thesis, Dissertations and Project works. The ownership automatically vest in the student author subject to royalty-free licence of the university to reproduce and publish.

The NOTAP’s Guideline for IP ownership is in pari material with that of WIPO Guidelines except with the addition that, where equipment such as office, Lab, studio, computer hardware, et ce tera  are  acquired pursuance to an externally funded research, ownership of the equipment shall at the completion of the research revert to the university as university’s property[23].

            Intellectual Property Income Sharing: IP income sharing policies are also well outlined. According to the WIPO Guidelines rules 111 and 112(as adopted by NOTAP) is as follows:

  • General Revenue sharing principle for patented and commercialized invention made by a university employee using institution’s resources is as following:
  • Gross Income: this goes to the university until the expenditure for protection and exploitation of the IP is subtracted.
  • Net Income: this is shared between the inventor and the university. The trend is the university’s percentage share increases with the increase in the net total revenue while the percentage share of inventor decreases with increase in the net total revenue.
  • Each institution determine its stakeholders such as, the inventor’s research group, campus, a faculty, scholarship fund, patent fund, Technology transfer Office and the University et ce tera.[24] BSU do not have an income distribution arrangement as does other universities such as the ABU Policy that contains the following ratio under Article 3.11:
  • Lump Sum
  • Inventor-40%
  • University- 60% ( to defray all incidental expences)
  • Royalties
  • Inventor -33%
  • Department-33%
  • University-34%

The  Benue State University (BSU) Regulation is disturbingly silent on ownership and has not reflected on categorization of ownership as to whether individual or students’ researches nor formulated policies on collaborative research. The general provisions reflecting research ownership and assignment are generally ambiguous. The University has no IP policy so to say, except for the Regulation Governing the Conditions of Service for Senior Staff[25] references inventions[26] and by implication copyright[27].The Conditions of Service provide as it relates to inventions thus:

S.14.1 A member of staff [28]who has made an invention during the course of his work shall

immediately report it to the Vice Chancellor. Staff shall, at the expense of the University if so

required by the Vice Chancellor lodge an application for provisional protection of the

patent.[29]

 

 

S.14.3 As soon as practicable, the Awards Committee shall recommend,[30] and Council will

decide, whether the member of staff shall be allowed controlling rights in the patent. Pending

Council decision, the rights shall be deemed to belong to and be held in trust by the

University. Where an invention is in all respects alien to the employment of the member of

staff, he will normally be granted the controlling rights. If the member of staff is allowed the

controlling rights, the following provisions shall apply:

 

  1. Staff will be responsible for all expenditure for taking out the patent.

 

  1. Council may attach to its decision such conditions as it may think fit and in particular, may

reserve to the University a right of user of the invention free from royalty and/or may reserve

the right to a share of any commercial proceeds.[31]

 

 

S.14.4 If the staff is not allowed controlling rights of patent, the following provisions shall

apply:

 

  1. i) The staff shall assign all his rights in the invention to the University.

 

  1. ii) The University shall be responsible for all expenditure in taking out the patent.

 

iii)        The University Council shall decide whether the staff shall be allowed a share of any

royalties or commercial proceeds.[32]

 

 

S.14.5 Whether or not he is allowed controlling rights the member of staff may apply to the

Awards Committee for an award in respect of his invention. In fixing the amount of any

award or share of any commercial proceeds:

 

  1. Any reasonable expenses incurred by the member of staff in respect of the invention

shall be taken into account.

 

  1. The reservation of the right of user, free of royalty by the University, shall not be

taken into account, but if and when such right is exercised by the University, a

material change calling for modification of the award shall be deemed to have taken place.[33]

These provisions though quite draconian in spirit, and wordings are only applicable to

Members of staff and does not include other researchers like students. Additionally, the rule

as it exist  is not in tandem with global practices and if Benue State University indeed wants

to be a citadel of knowledge within the community of world best Universities, then the

Council of Benue State University should amend same. This practice creates unhealthy and

inhibitive innovative practice in research and development pattern at the university and this

calls for a better management tool so as to identify, harness, secure, manage and exploit the

intellectual property the university may generate. The provisions are draconian because,

several factors help to establish who owns a University invention and what rights the

University may or may not, have. These factors include whether, there are express or implied

agreement to assigns ownership; whether the inventor is employed by the University; whether

the invention was made within the scope of employment and where and when the invention

was made[34]. The starting point of the law is that individuals own their inventions except

through an Invention Assignment Agreement (IAAS), there exist an express agreement

providing for assignment of inventions to an employer; and where an implied agreement to

assign is found because the employee:

  • was hired or assigned to invent,
  • was hired or assigned to solve a specific problem,
  • Served the employer in a fiduciary (president of a commercial company, for example).

Where no written agreement exists and no implied contract to assign is found, the inventor will own the invention. To address these questions, Japanese patent law has introduced the notion of an “employee’s invention”[35] and gives individual inventors the right to apply for patents at the expense of the employer.

3.4 Intellectual Property Rights Ownership and Awareness: Practical Considerations at Benue State University

The Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER) is a Centre of Excellence established to cater for control of Post-Harvest food losses. The core mandate of CEFTER includes:

(a)        To develop a critical mass of well-trained students in the control of post-harvest losses;

(b)        To empower African researchers to identify technologies that will reduce post-harvest losses;

(c)        Development of technologies through applied research for reducing post-harvest losses;

(d)        Engage communities, farmers and industries in the development and dissemination of technologies in post-harvest losses.[36]

Since its establishment, the Center distinguished itself in 2015 when it won a World Bank grant for the establishment of an African Centre of Excellence (ACE) in Nigeria for the development of research to reduce post-harvest losses. Pursuance to CEFTER’s mandate, the following technologies were developed by students of the centre as herein captured and indicated by tables “A” and “B”:

 

 

 

S/N NAME OF ENTREPRENEUR DEVELOPER. STATUS PRODUCT (S) VALUE ADDITION AND BENEFITS SUGGESTED REGISTRATION REMARKS
1 Tar Sesugh MSc. Post harvest engineering student. Passive solar drier for drying of vegetable products. *Environmental friendly.

*Economical saves time and energy

Patentable invention University has not made effort to register
2 Michael Tersteagh MSc. Post harvest engineering student. Active solar drier for drying of tomatoes *Environmental friendly.

*Economical saves time and energy

Patentable invention ditto
3 Apaa Jacob MSc. Post harvest engineering student. Improved the shelve life of mango fruits using gamma irrigation and evaporative cooling *No preservatives.

*highly nutritious and well packaged to sustain life shelf.

Process invention(but not available in Nigeria) ditto
4 Beba Shedrach Luper MSc. Food science and Technology Produced bread from wheat default and beetroot composite flour. Fortified with vitamins and recommended for diabetic patients. Trademark ditto
5 Veronica Angbiandoo Ashaver MSc. Food science and Technology Produced pulse electric field equipment in the treatment of orange juice. Improved technology Patent. ditto
6 Josephine Njoughul MSc. Food science and Technology Came out with quality studies on living stone potato Improved knowledge Discovery Ditto
7 Aben Ben PhD. Fish post harvest technology Fabricated and improved fish drier. *portability

*Mechanically operated and does not require electricity.

Patent ditto
8 Aben Ben PhD fish post harvest technology Produced fish fortified baby formula and fish spices Natural and hygienically processed and nutritious. Trademark Ditto

The table ‘A’ above shows products invented and value added products executed by postgraduate students waiting for sign-up on the indicated IP platform.

Apart from the above products and products improvements, a lot of value added products that also add to innovative assets and value chain on the agricultural products  that can nevertheless constitute properties of Intellectual Property creation in patent, trademarks or trade secrets include:  Products like the “Demobilizing Spray” (which can be used in place of tear gases by security personnel and citizens alike) which was developed by a group of researchers from pepper with an utility model or inventive character  under Patent and Designs Act. Other products with value addition which Students/ Researchers at the institute incubated include:

 

S/N NAME OF ENTREPRENEUR/ DEVELOPER. STATUS PRODUCT (S) VALUE ADDITION AND BENEFITS SUGGESTED REGISTRATION REMARKS
1 Group work  (products from rice) Zaza, Rice Cookies, Risem, Jannil, Tusha, Rice Cake An improvement on what is obtainable from rice with high energy supply.

-highly economical with improved packaging.

Trademark University has not made effort to register
2 Group work (Products from Fish)   Plan Fish Cookie, G Fish Cookie, Fish Ball Rich in protein, highly economical with improved packaging. Trademark Ditto
3 Group work (Products from Soya Bean) Soy Biscuits, Soy Flour, Soy Powder Milk, Soy Animal Feed, Soy Soup 100% fresh and natural. No additives, no artificial preservatives and odorless soya beans. Trademark Ditto
4 Group work (Products from Corn)   Corn bread, free sugar popcorn, corn grit Fortified with vitamin A products. Trademark Ditto
5 Group work (Products from Orange)   Orange Crunches, Orange Muffin, Orange Cookies It is a juice extracted and packaged as orange with low sugar content Trademark Ditto
6 Group work (Products from Tomato) Tomato Juice, Tomato Salsa, Tomato Ketchup, Tomato Puree Waste to wealth Trademark Ditto
7 Group work (Products from  Mango) Mango Roll ups, Mango Crisps, Mango Jam, Mango Drink Sugar free, handy and attractive. Trademark and geographical indication Ditto
8 Group work (Products from  Beniseed) Sesame oil, Sesame Milk, Sesame Yoghurt, Sesame Animal feed Raw material are sourced locally Trademark and geographical indication Ditto
9 Group work (Products from Pepper)  *Benue Hot Scotch Bonnet,

 

*BSU MagicPuree,

 

*Demobilizing Spray;

 

*White Pepper, Kembe’s Essential Oil

 

Packaged using agric proceeds

 

Packaged using agric proceeds

 

 

 

 

Local content and technology

Trademark Ditto

Table ‘B’ above shows a variety of products developed by postgraduate students jointly as group projects during their food week exhibition for the 2017/2018 session

 

4.1       The Study Methodology

The research design adopted in this research is a survey design that sought to examine the Postgraduate students’ knowledge about the existence and operations of the patent law and operation particularly as it relate to post-harvest losses inventions at the Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEPTER) of the Benue State University. The study used interview and questionnaire to collect data used for the study. The survey design was considered appropriate in this study as it allows the use of questionnaire as a data collection instrument.

4.2       Population of the Study

The target population of the research consist of postgraduate students at the Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEPTER) of the Benue State University of the 2017/2018 session. The total number of post graduate students stands at 115. This number cut across the accredited courses at the Centre. These are as follows:

MSc/PhD Food Science & Technology; MSc Bio Statistics; MSc/PhD Post-Harvest Physiology of Crops and Management; MSc/PhD Food Chemistry; MSc/PhD Food Processing Technology; MSc/PhD Analytical/Environmental Chemistry; MSc/PhD Organic/Natural Products Chemistry; MSc/PhD Post-Harvest Engineering & Technology; MSc/PhD Rural Sociology & Agricultural Extension.

4.3       Sample and Sampling Technique

The Stratified Random Sampling Technique was adopted in carrying out this research. This sampling technique was adopted because CEPTER has already divided the population into homogeneous groups known as strata. Each stratum is represented by a course in the Centre; bringing it to a total of 12 strata. Samples were drawn from each stratum by using the purposive technique. This sampling technique was used to select at least Nine (9) respondents from each of the 12 courses at the centre making a total of 115 respondents, which represents the sample for the study.

4.4       Data Collection Instruments

A researchdesigned questionnaire titled “Postgraduate Students’ Perception of Intellectual Property Rights Ownership at Benue State University: Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEPTER) in Perspective”. the questionnaire was divided into two sections, A and B. Section A comprised the respondents’ demographic information such as age, gender, level of educational learning at the Postgraduate programme while section B featured items on the variables in the objectives of the study including, knowledge of basic IP, awareness of the requirements of IPRs, types of IP, ownership requirements and exceptions on patentable inventions ownership, institutional disclosure requirements and generally IP policy issues at the Institution.

4.5       Data Collection Procedure

The questionnaires were administered to the respondents by the researcher during their core CEPTER exhibition week. This was performed when the students were in session waiting for the formal commencement of the week long activity because it was the most convenient time and opportunity to meet with all the students, mentors of the programmes as well as visiting lecturers and colleagues in the different programmes. To ensure maximum response, the respondents, after seeking for their informed consent, were asked to fill and return the questionnaire before the end of the day’s activity. A total of 115 copies of the questionnaire were administered (100 %.) out of which 87 copies representing (75.65 %) were returned.

4.6       Data Analysis and Result

Table 1: Age Distribution of the Respondents

Age Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
18 – 25 8 9.2 9.2
26 – 35 55 63.2 72.4
36 – 49 18 20.7 93.1
50 above 6 6.9 100
Total 87 100  

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

The Table 1 above shows the age distribution of the respondents. The result shows that, 8 (9.2%) respondents’ falls within the category of 18-25 years old. This is followed by 55 (63.2%) of 26-35 years old. Next is 18 (20.7) representing those who are 36-49 years old and 6(6.9%) representing respondents who are age 50 and above. The frequency shows that majority of the respondents’ falls within 26-35 years as well as 36-49 years. This is predictable from the perspective that, the research is targeted at postgraduate students who are most likely to be of adult age. This result may be consistent when viewed against the tortuous educational progression in Nigeria that is bedevilled of many crisis and strikes which lead to a lot of delays and stagnations of students.

Table 2: Gender Distribution of the Respondents.

Gender Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
Male 41 47.1 47.1
Female 46 52.1 100
Total 87 100

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

The result of Table 2 above indicates that 41(47.1%) are males while 46 (42.1%) are females. This simply means that, there was more female participation than the male folk in the research. This unusual age distribution is represented below in a pie and bar chart to further buttress the female dominance.

 

Table 3: Programme of Study by the Respondents.

Programme Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
PhD 19 21.8 21.8
MSc 60 69.0 90.8
PGD 8 9.2 100
Total 87 100

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

Table 3 shows that a total of 19 persons representing (21.8%) are undertaking the Doctorate Degrees programme of CEPTER, while 60 students representing (69.0%) are on the Master Degree programme while 8 students representing (9.2%) are undertaking a Postgraduate Diploma programme. The import of this statistic is that, the Master Students (MSc) are more in numbers and participation in the research. The result is supported by the findings on Tables ‘A’and ‘B’ where more MSc than PhD students developed products which may be patented, licenced or commercialised at the centre. See the bar and pie charts below for more details on the distribution of the respondents based on the programme of study at CEPTER.

 

 

Table 4: Awareness of Engagement in Post-harvest Programme with CEPTER.

Engagement at CEFTER Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
Yes 83 95.4 95.4
No 4 4.6 100
Total 87 100

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

The result of Table 4 above shows a total of 83 respondents representing 95.4% were aware of the existence of their research activity with the CEPTER while 4 respondents comprising a marginal frequency of 4.6% were not aware of the core essence of their required research output. The statistical extent of their views is succinctly expressed in the bar and pie charts depicted below.

 

Table 5: Knowledge to answer basic questions on what IP means

Knowledge of IP Frequency Percentage Cumulative Percentage
Strongly agree 22 25.3 25.3
Strongly disagree 4 4.6 29.9
Agree 56 64.4 94.3
Disagree 5 5.7 100
Undecided 0 0 100
Total 87 100

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

 

Assuming, SA to be strongly agreed, SD to be strongly disagreed, AG stand for agreed, DG stand for disagreed and UD represents undecided, the result of Table 5 and the charts shows that, 22 of the respondents representing 25.3% strongly knew the basic knowledge of what IP, while 4 respondents comprising 4.6% strongly did not have knowledge of IP basis, 5 respondents constituting 5.7% disagreed of basic knowledge of IP. Furthermore, the result reveals that 78 respondents representing a combination of 56 (64.4%) and 22 (25.3%) have passive knowledge of IP. It is however, interesting to observe that, 0 (00%) that is zero respondents shows that there is a threshold of understanding of what IP stands for

Table 6: Awareness of Intellectual Property Rights

Awareness of  IP Rights Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
Strongly agree 22 25.3 25.3
Strongly disagree 2 2.3 27.6
Agree 55 63.2 90.8
Disagree 8 9.2 100
Undecided 0 0 100
Total 87 100  

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

Table 6 above reveals that out of 87 postgraduate students that were sampled, 22 (25.3%) were aware of the existence of patent law/intellectual property while 2 (2.3%) were unaware of it. 55 (63.2%) have passive level of awareness while 8 (9.2%) disagreed to  having any level of awareness. This strongly implies that, a good number of postgraduate students are unaware of IP as if affects their creative research discoveries. The result is further collaborated by the bar and pie charts depicted therein.

 

Table 7: Knowledge of the forms and types of IP Rights

Forms Rights Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
Strongly agree 40 46.0 46
Strongly disagree 7 8.0 54
Agree 35 40.2 94.2
Disagree 5 5.8 100
Undecided 0 0 100
Total 87 100

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

There are three Acts pertaining to intellectual property and they are Copyright Act, Patent and Designs Act and Trademark Act. The other forms of IP are Trade Secrets, Confidential Information and Database .The above Table 7 signifies that, a total of 40 (46.0%) know of the different forms of IP while 7 (8.0%) do not know of the forms of IPRs.35 (40.2%) merely agree, 5 (5.8%) disagree while 0(0%) threshold agreement on awareness of IPRs. This shows that a fair number of students have positive perception about ways in which IP exist to support creativity. See charts for further comprehension.

 

Table 8: Whether the Respondents are aware that IP can be owned

Ownership Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
Yes 72 82.8 82.8
No 15 17.2 100
Total 87 100

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

 

Table 8 and the charts depicted above shows that 72 (82.8%) of postgraduate students agree that IP can be owned like any other property in moveable subject, 15 (17.2%) do not agree or are unaware of the ownership personality of IPs.

Table 9: Who owns research product at Benue State University

Ownership of Research Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
Strongly agree 7 8.0 8
Strongly disagree 24 27.6 35.6
Agree 22 25.3 60.9
Disagree 28 32.2 93.1
Undecided 6 6.9 100
Total 87 100

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

Table 9 shows a discrepancy on the question of who owns a product of research. The question sought to know between the researcher, university and sponsor of a research, who actually owns same. 7 of the respondents comprising 8.0% strongly agreed that ownership is vested in the university, while 24 of the respondents representing 27.6% strongly disagree; 22 of the respondents representing 25.3% merely agrees, 28  constituting 32.2% disagree while 6 respondents constituting  6.9% were undecided as to the position. A spike bar chart and dot chart are depicted below for further illustration.

 

Table 10: Whether or not research product is capable of been licensed and commercialised for monetary consideration

Licencing and commercialisation of inventions Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
Yes 83 95.4 95.4
No 4 4.6 100
Total 87 100

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

Table 10 sought to provide an answer to the availability of avenue of licencing and commercialisation schemes in existence. A total of 83 (95.4%) know of this avenue while a marginal fraction of 4 (4.6%) represents a total number of students without knowledge that IP item can be traded upon through avenues of licencing and commercilaisation.

Table 11: Whether the Respondents are aware of their obligations to promptly and fully disclose their discoveries, inventions to the University.

Obligations to report inventions Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
Yes 52 59.8 59.8
No 35 40.2 100
Total 87 100

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

 

Table 11 and the charts below shows the existence of obligation of a researcher to promptly report and disclose fully, patentable inventions and discoveries that result from research. A sharp distinction occurred in that, 52 (59.8%) agreed of the existence of that obligation, 35 (40.2%) of the postgraduate students disagreed that such duty exist.

Table 12: Question on Respondents awareness of law of patents and whether the law is very sound and strong to protect an individual creativity

Knowledge of Patents Law Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
Strongly agree 48 55.2 55.2
Strongly disagree 5 5.7 60.9
Agree 31 35.6 96.5
Disagree 3 3.5 100
Undecided 0 0 100
Total 87 100

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

 

Table 12 above and the charts sought to know the students knowledge of patent laws in existence, its core existence of inventiveness and innovative attribute, 48 (55.2%) strongly said yes and agreed, 5 (5.7%) strongly disagree, 31 (35.6%) merely agreed, 3 (3.5%) disagreed while 0(0%) is undecided. This result shows that postgraduate in question fairly have knowledge of what patent laws stand for. This knowledge the students explained by interaction is gotten from public orientation and seminars that is organised by the Centre by way of orientations

Table 13: Question on the Respondents’ knowledge of ‘Novelty’ ‘state of the art’ and ‘Industrial Application’ requirements under patent laws

Awareness of Patent Requirements Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
Yes 59 67.8 67.8
No 18 20.7 88.5
Unaware 10 11.5 100
Total 87 100  

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

 

The Table 13 and the charts depicted above sought to consolidate the answers to table 12 afore discussed. Here, the students were examined on their awareness of the strict requirements of patentability namely, newness, inventive step and industrial application. The question was structured on a yes or no question. 59 (67.8%) answered yes, 18 (20.7%) answered no. 10 (11.5%) are unaware. This answer when juxtaposed with table 13 above shows some discrepancy and unreliability or lack of detailed understanding of the subject matter.

 

Table 14: Question on the Respondent is aware of IP policy existence and whether they signed onto the policy with the University through the Center

Signing of Intellectual Property Policy Frequency Percentage Cumulative Frequency
Yes 21 24.1 24.1
No 19 21.9 46
Unaware 47 54.0 100
Total 87 100

Sources: Field Survey, 2018

 

The above Table 14 and charts simply sought to know whether there exist a university policy on intellectual property rights and whether, postgraduate students are made to sign up on this policy. The question was structured simply ‘yes’ ’no’ or ‘unaware’. 21 (24.1%) said yes, 19 (21.9%) said no while 47 (54.0%) said they are unaware. In reality the university has no separate IP policy except as contained in the university Regulations Governing the Conditions of Service which students are not part of. Again, at the BSU, neither the staff, lecturers nor students are required to sign any agreement on that. This then means that the ‘yes’ of 24.1% is misleading; the ‘No’ of 21.9% is true while the ‘Unaware’ of 54.0% is equally valid.

Discussion of Findings

The main   objectives of the research was to examined the level of awareness of postgraduate students about IP as they undertake projects that may have commercial value   and in some instances patentable products in the control of post-harvest food losses. The objective was to highlight the challenges that the university might face in the future and the need for the institution to overcome same through policy migration and adoption. Other objectives included the challenges in promoting and protecting intellectual property(IP) at the institution and illustrate why universities generally and in particular, Benue State University need to increase their efforts to educate students on what IP is and why it matters and its dictates. The research specially, adumbrate on the desire of Benue State University in making IP a key focus in her effort to leverage her research output, by obtaining a greater number of patents and then licensing them to industries with the hope of boosting her revenue base and speed the introduction  of the results of their research into the market.

The first finding in the study shows a high level of awareness 95.4% on the part of postgraduate students about their research activity as it relates to controlling postharvest losses with the Centre. While the students are aware of their research expectation in the curbing of postharvest losses in agricultural outputs that may result in the creation of high value chain, the students are not well equipped in the basic knowledge of the dictates of the laws that regulates, control and reward creative and innovative efforts which is the Intellectual Property Law as evidenced in Patents. Table 5 of the Respondents shows the rating of inadequate perception of basic knowledge about Intellectual Property where 25.3% strongly agreed to the question of basic understanding of intellectual property, while 4.6% strongly disagreed, 64.4% merely agreed and 5.7% disagreed. Majority of the students interviewed agree to the fact that, they encountered intellectual property law for the first time on their orientation organised by the Centre and they had no fore knowledge and orientation of IP at any formal level. This finding is consistent when measured against the question of the requirements and awareness of IPRs. A ratio of 25.3% strongly agreed, 2.3% strongly disagreed, and majority of 63.2% merely agreed and 9.2% disagree. The co-finding of Respondents agrees with the fact that, the curriculum of Benue State University in general and the Centre in particular does not include the teaching of Intellectual Property Law courses such as patents, copyright, trademarks etcetera.

In identifying ways in which IP can be owned, the majority of respondents 82.8% agree that  it can be owned like any other property but who owns it at the Benue State University is disputed among the respondents. 8.0% strongly agreed that the student do not have right to own it. 27.6% strongly argued that they will own same, 25.3% merely agree they do not own same, 32.2% merely disagreed and 6.9% could not decide as to whom ownership and commercialisation resides. The foregoing result shows that, if the respondents are not aware of ownership, it then means that, even though 95.4% of the respondents who agrees that the invention can licenced or commercialised would not validly know who has that right. The finding is consistent with the fact that, neither staff nor students engaged in research are made to sign an Invention Assignment Agreement (IAA) and the university relies on her regulations to determine whether or not a university employee or research student owns his or her invention.

Table 11 of the Respondents view is based on the obligation of the researchers to promptly report research findings to the authorities of the university through the centre as well as, disclose fully their findings and result. 59.8% of the Respondents agreed that such obligations exist in reality. 40.2% of the Respondents disputed the existence of the requirement.. This finding indicates that, the 59.8% of respondents do not understand what the disclosure requirement that is expected under these circumstances. This result when viewed against the backdrop of the fact that, the university nor the Centre does not operate this kind of scheme and is not available at the university. This finding when compared with table 14 above, 24.1% of the Respondents asserted that, upon registration with the Centre, they signed up an IP Policy agreement.. 21.9% of the Respondents answered ‘No’ while 54.0% responded that they are ‘unaware’ of such a requirement justifies the need for the University to formulate an IP Policy that will help pre-determine issues of ownership, conflict of interest, profit sharing of income etcetera.

The findings in Table 12 sought to know the students knowledge of patent laws, its core existence of inventiveness and innovative attribute. The Respondents in the ratio of 48 (55.2%) strongly said yes and agreed, 5 (5.7%) strongly disagree, 31 (35.6%) merely agreed, 3 (3.5%) disagreed while 0(0%) is undecided. This result shows that postgraduate students in question fairly have knowledge of what patent laws stand for. This knowledge the students explained by interaction is gotten from public orientation and seminars that is organised by the Centre by way of orientations. However, when juxtaposed with the respondents finding in table 13 where the students were examined on their awareness of the strict requirements of patentability namely, newness, inventive step and industrial application. The question was structured on a yes or no question. 59 (67.8%) answered yes, 18 (20.7%) answered no. 10 (11.5%) are unaware. This answer shows some discrepancy and unreliability or lack of detailed understanding of the subject matter. The essence of this finding is that, since the respondents do not have good knowledge of the patent system requirements, they may be undertaking on ventures that may at the end not serve any useful purpose. The finding further supports the need for the introduction of the law of IP studies. It is important to assert that, not all IPRs are relevant for all categories of students and not all students require the same level of detail on each point. Engineering students for instance need the knowledge of Patents Law as it relate to new product that may be patentable while the researcher in interest of breeding or genetics will require knowledge of Seed or Plant Varieties as instance.

 

Conclusion

The key issue in this research is to interrogate Postgraduate Students’ understanding and awareness about IPRs and the Universities policies on IP Ownership and consequential rights to commercialisation. The result shows that, students have passive understanding about IPRs which they gain not through the formal system of knowledge acquisition but through other informal methods. This ultimately calls for the introduction of relevant IP courses on the programmes mounted by the Centre for the purpose of achieving maximum goals of reducing postharvest losses. The result further shows that, the inability of Benue State University to have a well defined IPRs policy framework has affected the defining of terms among the critical stakeholders at the Centre, namely, research students, programme consultants, research staff and this if not addressed, is likely to affect the university in the nearest future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Sectin 32 PDA

[2] Joseph Jar Kur Intellectual Property Law And Entrepreneurship in Nigeria: Principles And Practice(Aboki Publishers 2015)

[3] (n4)P36

[4]Cap p.2 LFN 2004 (hereinafter simply called the Act)

[5]Section 1 of the Act.

[6]OyewunmiAdejoke, Nigerian Law of Intellectual Property (Lagos: Unilag Press, 2015) p.14

[7]Section 1(4)(a) and (b) PDA 2004

[8]Section 1(5) PDA 2004

[9]Section 2(b) of the Act

[10]The Exclusive rights of a Patent relate to the exclusive right to exclude others from making, using, offering to sell, selling, or importing her invention

[11]McJohn Stephen, Intellectual Property, Third Edition (Chigago: Aspen Publishers, 2009) p.252

[12]Ibid, p.253

[13]Under the University of California “Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Horticulture and supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) https://www.feed thefuture.gov/article/icecoldinnovation-reduce-postharvest losses (accessed on 2/07/2016).

[14] Sambo AS “Commercialisable Renewable Energy Research and Development Products”(COREM) (n23)

[15] Abigail Barrow, Managing Student Intellectual Property Issues at Institutions of Higher Education: An AUTM Primer AUTM Technology Transfer Practice Manual, 3rd edn Vol 2p1

[16] n15

[17]  Article 26 Wipo Guidelines

[18] Chapter II Notap

[19] Article 2.1.2 of Ibadan Policy

[20] Article 3.8 ABU Zaria.

[21] Article 55-73

[22] Exempted Scholarly Works

[23] Article 7.1-7.6

[24] Kassim S Agbonika (n 27)

[25] Hereinafter called the 2009 Regulations

[26] Section 14

[27] Section 15

[28] Emphasis mine

[29]S.14(1) of Regulations Governing the Conditions of Service for Senior Staff, Benue State University.

[30] S 14(2)

[31]S.14(3) Ibid

[32]S.14(4) Ibid

[33]S.14(5) Ibid

[34] Weidermier Jean ‘Ownership of University Inventions: practical Consideration. http://www.iphandbook.org/handbook/ch05/p04 (accessed on 10/09/2016)

[35]  Section 35 Japanese Patent Law paragraph 1

[36]www.cefterbsu.edu.ng (visited 29/07/2016)

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