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
In December 2012 agreement was reached on two Regulations for the implementation of unitary patent protection.
Regulation (EU) No 1257/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of the unitary patent and Regulation (EU) No 1260/2012 with regard to the applicable translations arrangements. Both Regulations will come into effect in tandem with the international Agreement on a Unified Patent Court.
Regulation (EU) No 1257/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2012 implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection
Council Regulation (EU) No 1260/2012 of 17 December 2012 implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation arrangements
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.
Intellectual Property Office of Ireland
European Patent Office
World Intellectual Property Office