Excluded Subject Matter

What can be patented

Patent protection can be applied to a wide range of inventions such as appliances and mechanical devices, biological and chemical inventions and computer related inventions.

What cannot be patented

Not all inventions qualify for the grant of a patent. The Irish Patents Act specifically excludes the following subjects from patentability:

(i) Discoveries and aesthetic creations:

  • A discovery, a scientific theory or a mathematical method;
  • An aesthetic creation;
  • A scheme, rule or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business, or a computer program; or
  • The presentation of information.

Although such subject matter or activities are not patentable, their use or application may be patentable. For example, a scheme or method for playing a game is not patentable, but it is possible to obtain patent protection for a novel apparatus for playing a game. Also, the exclusion from patentability of computer programs does not prevent the granting of patents for inventions involving the use of such programs, as long as a technical effect is achieved by its implementation.

While it is not possible to obtain a patent on software per se, patents may be granted for inventions requiring the use of software to achieve their purpose. This, however, is conditional on the software having a "technical effect" when the programme is run. Such effect may, for example, be found in the control of an industrial process or in the internal functioning of the computer itself.

The Irish Intellectual Property Office of Ireland, in line with the European Patent Office, grants patents for inventions that comply with strict criteria on patentability laid down in the European Patent Convention (EPC). See the EPO’s paper entitled attached Patents for Software(2.27 MB, Adobe PDF) for more information.

(ii) Methods of medical and veterinary treatments:

Methods of treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy and diagnostic methods practised on the human or animal body are not patentable.  This exclusion does not apply to products, substances or compositions for use in any of these methods, i.e. medicines or surgical instruments.

(iii) Plant and animal varieties or essentially biological processes for their production.

You cannot patent a process for the cross breeding of plants or patent plant or animal varieties. Plant varieties may be protected by other means, such as through the Office of the Controller of Plant Breeders Rights . However if the invention concerns plants and animals and if the technical feasibility of the invention is not confined to a particular plant or animal variety, the invention may be patentable.

(iv) Inventions the publication or exploitation of which would be contrary to public order or morality.
This exclusion is subject to the proviso that the exploitation of such inventions is not deemed to be so contrary merely because it is prohibited in law.

We recommend that you seek the assistance of a patent attorney to ensure that your invention is patentable and before applying for a patent.