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Other intellectual property rights

Trade secrets

A trade secret is a type of Intellectual Property such as a formula, a practice or process of a company that is not generally known outside of the company and which is kept secret.  Trade secrets can confer economic advantage over competitor products or services. Trade secrets broadly fall into two categories: technical information such as manufacturing processes, recipes, chemical compounds etc. or, commercial information including lists of customers, product launch date, results of marketing studies etc.

Directive 2016/943 on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure, aims to standardise the national laws in EU countries against the unlawful acquisition, disclosure and use of trade secrets.

The Directive includes the definition of a trade secret as being information which meets all of the following requirements:

(a)  it is secret in the sense that is it not, as a body or in the precise configuration and assembly of its components, generally known among or readily accessible to persons within the circles that normally deal with the kind of information in question,

(b)  it has commercial value because it is secret,

(c)  it has been subject to reasonable steps under the circumstances, by the person lawfully in control of the information, to keep it secret.

Ireland transposed the Directive by way of Statutory Instrument European Union (Protection of Trade Secrets) Regulations 2018 (SI No 188 of 2018) which came into effect on 9 June 2018 providing civil redress measures and remedies in the event a trade secret is unlawfully acquired, used or disclosed. By limiting access to hearings and court documents containing the trade secret the Regulation also ensures confidentiality of the trade secret is preserved. 

Plant varieties

The term "species" is a familiar unit of botanical classification within the plant kingdom. However, there can be a wide range of different types of plant within a species. A “plant variety” represents a more precisely defined group of plants, selected from within a species, with a common set of characteristics.

In the European Union, a system for the protection of plant variety rights has been established by Council Regulation 2100/94. The system allows intellectual property rights, valid throughout the EU, to be granted for plant varieties. In operation since 1995, the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) is the European Union agency responsible for implementing a system for the protection of plant varieties.

Further information and application forms are available on CPVO.

The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) system of plant variety protection came into being with the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants by a Diplomatic Conference in Paris on 2 December 1961. This was the point at which there was recognition of the intellectual property rights of plant breeders in their varieties on an international basis.

The UPOV Convention provides a sui generis form of intellectual property protection which has been specifically adapted for the process of plant breeding and has been developed with the aim of encouraging breeders to develop new varieties of plants.

Further information is available on UPOV.

Protection for topographies of integrated circuits

Semiconductor technology is essential for industrial development. The development of the topography of a semiconductor product requires the investment of considerable human, technical and financial resources; however the topographies of such products can be copied at a fraction of the cost needed to develop them independently.

Although prefabricated components of electrical circuitry have been used for a long time in the manufacture of electrical equipment, large-scale integration of a multitude of electrical functions in a very small component only became possible as a result of advances in semiconductor technology. Integrated circuits are used in a wide range of products, including articles of everyday use, such as watches, television sets, washing machines and cars, as well as sophisticated computers and servers.

The topographies of integrated circuits are not considered to be industrial designs as they do not determine the external appearance of integrated circuits, but rather the physical location within the integrated circuit of each element with an electronic function. Moreover, such topographies are not normally patentable inventions as their creation usually does not involve an inventive step.

In terms of protection in the European Union, a sui generis right protecting the topographies of semiconductor products was introduced by Directive 87/54/EEC.

Under Irish law, protection is granted by way of the transposition of Directive 87/54/EEC and a number of council decisions on the geographic scope of protection in countries and territories outside the EEA. The pertinent Irish secondary legislation is as follows:

Internationally, the Treaty on Intellectual Property in Respect of Integrated Circuits was adopted in 1989 under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organisation and provides protection for the topographies of integrated circuits. The Treaty has not entered into force but its 12 substantive provisions have, to a large extent, been incorporated by reference in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which was concluded in 1994.

Related websites

European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)

World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)

Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine

Community Plant Variety Office

International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV)