What is a Patent?
A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention which is a process or a product that provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new solution to a problem.
It confers upon its holder, for a limited period (in countries of protection), the right to exclude others from exploiting (making, using, selling, importing) the patented invention except with the consent of the patentee.
How long does a Patent last?
Irish Patents, in common with most jurisdictions, have a maximum life span of twenty years. Ireland also offers a “short-term” patent, valid for a maximum of ten years.
What is patentable?
In order to be eligible for a patent, the invention must be new, involve an inventive step and be capable of industrial application.
Can I patent my software?
Under the Irish Patents Act, in general, software is not patentable. However, if you have developed software that is having a technical effect, for example, software that runs a piece of machinery, then you may be able to protect the software as part of a patent application. As software protection can be complex, please contact the Office in order to determine what type of protection is applicable for you. Please also refer to our Copyright sectionfor further information regarding software protection.
I have a great idea for a product but I have not yet produced it? Can I still apply for a patent?
Yes, a product does not have to exist in order to qualify for a patent. You, must, however, be able to describe the product in full technical detail in order to apply.
What do the terms “patent pending” and “patent applied for” mean?
They are used by a manufacturer or seller of an article to inform the public that an application for a patent for that item has been made. It is against the law to use the term falsely to deceive the public.
Can two components brought together as one product be patented?
Two products with already known features combined together can be patented as long as the combination involves an inventive step (link) over prior art and was not obvious to a person skilled in that field.
I have come up with a great new invention, however, I do not have the technical expertise to develop this product without help? How do I engage the assistance of an expert without risking my idea being taken?
Before a product can be disclosed in the public domain, including to manufacturers, retailers, engineers, experts etc, it is necessary to file your patent application. Once patent pending is in place, you are free to discuss your product. However, if you find yourself in a position where you require expert assistance to gain a proper technical understanding of how your product will work and therefore are not in a position to file a patent initially, you should approach your solicitor and request that they draft a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement on your behalf. You may then request that your chosen accomplice sign this agreement before you disclose any product detail to them. Once they have signed the agreement, they will be unable to take your product to market without your consent. You may then file for patent protection when you have secured full technical knowledge of how your product will work. Once the patent has been filed, you are then free to disclose the product in the general public domain.
I saw a great product on holidays that’s not for sale in this Country, can I patent it?
The short answer is no, if a product is already in the public domain, whether it is protected or not, it cannot be patented anywhere else.
What if I want to protect my invention abroad?
For protection abroad, you need to apply to patent offices in individual countries or via a single application using the international patent system, known as the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT). This is not a worldwide patent but there are currently 148 member states throughout the world who are contracting parties to the treaty.
Or, if you are interested in Europe, you can get patent protection in most European countries by filing a single application under the European Patent Convention (EPC). A patent application made to the EPO can designate some or all of the contracting member states. There are currently 36 member states and 4 extension states.
What are the advantages of applying for a European/PCT patent?
The main advantage of the European Patent is that it allows the applicant to obtain patent rights in one or more of the European patent contracting (EPC) states by making a single application. This may be considerably cheaper than making a separate application in each EPC member state. Additional information on the EPC process can be found at www.epo.org
The Patent Co-operation Treaty (International PCT) allows the applicant to again apply by means of a single filing but the protection can be sought in all or some of the 151 current member states worldwide. Additional information on the PCT system can be found at www.wipo.org
When should I apply?
As long as the invention is a secret and not disclosed to the public, you can apply at any time. It is up to you to decide the best time to apply. However,
professional advice from a patent agent can be very helpful because:
if an application is filed too early there is a risk that the invention or product may not be fully developed or not ready to be put on the market, or
if the application is delayed, there is a risk that someone else might have the same idea and decide to file a patent application before you.
Do I have to use a Patent Agent?
No, it is a personal choice. However, the drafting and filing of a patent application (including specification, claims, drawings and abstract) can be technically complex and should not be embarked upon by an inexperienced person. An application for a patent should include a specification comprising a full description of the invention (including any drawings), a set of claims defining your invention, a short abstract summarising the technical features of your invention and a completed Form No 1. You do not need prototypes, samples of materials used, background of research activities, etc.
Can the Intellectual Property Office of Ireland recommend a Patent Agent?
No, but we can provide a list of Irish registered patent agents.
Does the Intellectual Property Office of Ireland control the fees charged by Patent Agents for their services?
No, this is a matter between you and your patent agent in which the Office takes no part. To avoid misunderstanding you may wish to ask for an estimate and compare prices before proceeding.
Can I restore a Patent that has lapsed due to non-payment of the renewal fee?
The owner of a patent can apply to restore a patent within two years of the date the renewal payment was due. A fee of €125 is payable with the restoration application. In making the restoration application, the applicant must satisfy the Controller that the lapsing of the patent was unintentional. The restoration application will be published and an opportunity afforded to persons to object to the restoration. If the restoration application is successful the applicant will then be requested to pay the renewal fee and any overdue fees.
Can I re-apply for a withdrawn patent?
A patent that has been withdrawn can be re-applied for as a new patent application as long as it was never published (referred to as OPI or Open to public inspection).
Can the Intellectual Property Office of Ireland assist me in developing/marketing my product?
No. The Office cannot act or advise concerning the development or marketing of your product. We would suggest that you contact Enterprise Ireland or your local Enterprise Office who may be able to assist you in this regard.
I think I may be infringing a patented invention. What should I do?
Infringing a patent means manufacturing, using, selling or importing a patented product or process without the patent owner's permission. If you are doing any of these things, you should obtain professional advice quickly from a patent agent or solicitor, because the owner of the patent can sue you.
I wish to register the transfer of ownership/assignment of my patent with the Office? What is the procedure?
The Patent Assignment form must be completed along with the prescribed fee of €50.00 for the first patent and €6.00 for each additional patent on the application. An original or certified copy of the Deed of Assignment/Transfer Agreement evidencing the change of proprietorship must be submitted to support the application.
I wish to register a Security Interest/Licence of a Patent with the Office. What is the procedure for filing such applications?
Security interest/Licence applications must be completed along with the prescribed fee of €50.00 for the first patent and €6.00 for each additional patent on the application. An original or certified copy of the Licence Agreement/Security Interest evidencing the agreement between the parties must be submitted to support the applications.