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A patent confers upon its holder, for a limited period, the right to exclude others from exploiting (making, using, selling, importing) the patented invention, except with the consent of the owner of the patent. A patent is a form of “industrial property”, which can be assigned, transferred, licensed or used by the owner.

In order to be patentable an invention must be novel, involve an inventive step and be susceptible of industrial application

Patents are territorial in effect, for example, patents granted by the Intellectual Property Office of Ireland are valid only in Ireland. The Irish Patents system provides for two patent types, namely, full-term, 20-year patents and short-term, 10-year patents. To maintain an Irish patent in force, annual renewal fees must be paid each year.

Other types of patents available to Irish applicants are European Patents administered by the European Patent Office with the potential for protection in 38 member states and international patents under the Patent Cooperation Treaty with potential for protection in over 148 countries party to the Treaty, for which the Intellectual Property Office of Ireland acts as a receiving office.  

European Union patents

Although no EU system of patent protection currently exists, plans are at an advanced stage for the introduction of a Unitary European Union system of patent protection and for an international Court in which patent litigation will be heard. The system commonly referred to as “The Patents Package”.

The patents package consists of three elements:

  • An EU Regulation creating a European patent with unitary effect (unitary patent);
  • An EU Regulation establishing a translation regime for the unitary patent;
  • An international agreement among 25 EU Member States setting up a single specialised patent jurisdiction - the Unified Patent Court.

Both the unitary patent and the Court will come into force at the same time once all the preparatory work is complete and the required number of ratifications of the UPCA by Member States is completed.

European patent with unitary effect

The Unitary Patent will be a single patent valid throughout all of the EU Member States that are implementing the EU system (currently all EU Member States except Spain and Croatia) and those States that have ratified the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court.

The International Agreement on a Unified Patent Court

The Unified Patent Court will be a centralised patent court where inventors can enforce their patent rights in 25 Member States through instigating one legal case. The Unified Patent Court will have jurisdiction over EU Unitary Patents and, after a transitional period of 7 years, over European Patents granted by the EPO.

Related websites 

Intellectual Property Office of Ireland

European Patent Office

World Intellectual Property Office

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