Legal protection for the different types of creations can take the form of patents, trade marks, industrial designs or copyright.
Intellectual property rights
Industrial property rights
Patents are concerned with inventions producing a technical solution. They apply to new and improved products, processes and uses intended for industrial application.
Irish patents have a maximum lifespan of 20 years but you have to pay annual renewal fees (every year from the third year) to keep the patent in force. Ireland also offers a "short-term" patent, valid for a maximum of ten years. Patent protection can be extended beyond Irish jurisdiction under the European Patent Convention, which has been adopted by the EU countries.
Trade marks are concerned with brand identity, principally of goods and services. They can be distinctive words, marks or other features, the purpose of which is to make a distinction in the mind of customers between different traders, products and services.
If renewed you can keep a trade mark registration indefinitely. Registration is initially for a period of 10 years (from the date of filing the application) and it can subsequently be renewed every 10 years on payment of the renewal fee.
Industrial designs are concerned with the appearance of a product - of the whole or of part of a product. They refer, in particular, to its shape, configuration, contours, texture or materials of the product itself not dictated by functional considerations.
Design protection is territorial, a design registered in Ireland is only valid in Ireland. On 1 January 2003 the EU Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) began accepting applications for Registered Community Designs.
Once registered, your design's protection is valid for five years. You can then renew it for four further periods of five years each (with payment of the necessary fee), giving a maximum of 25 years protection from the date of registration.
Copyright is concerned with original literary works such as novels, poems and plays, musical and artistic works such as musical compositions, sound recordings and TV and radio broadcasts, software, multimedia films, drawings, maps, charts, plans, paintings, photographs and sculptures and works of architecture.
Protecting Intellectual Property rights in Ireland
The Intellectual Property Unit of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation - is responsible for intellectual property laws and policies. It also acts as a liaison section between the Department and the Patents Office.
The Irish Patents Office implements the system of intellectual property protection. It also provides input in the drafting of certain legislation and in the formulation of policy.
Protecting intellectual property rights abroad
Ireland is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The WIPO system allows your business for example, to file for patent protection or register a trademark using one single application with one patent/trademark office. This patent or trademark application will then be recognised internationally among the signatory countries to the Patent Cooperation Treaty or the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks.
Ireland is also a party to the European Patent Convention (EPC), which is a multilateral treaty that provides a single legal framework and unified procedure for the granting and litigation of patents in all 40 contracting states. The EPC is the legal basis for the European Patent Organization and its executive organ, the European Patent Office (EPO).
Combating counterfeiting and piracy
The Office of the Revenue Commissioners, "Revenue", is the authority responsible for dealing with Customs checks and preventing the import and export of counterfeit goods.
Property rights encourage investment in innovation and research.
Patent Application Forms
To apply for a patent at the Irish Patent Office, you must complete an application form. In addition you must submit a specification containing a description of the invention, one or more claims defining the matter for which protection is sought and any drawings needed for the disclosure. An abstract containing a summary of the matter contained in the specification is also required along with the appropriate application fee.
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.
The Patent Cooperation 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 144 current member states worldwide. Additional information on the PCT system can be found through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Trade Mark Application Forms
You can make an application to protect a trademark either before the mark is put in use or afterwards. It is recommended that an application be made to register a mark as soon as possible to ensure priority over anyone else who applies to register the same or similar mark.
To apply, lodge the application form (Form No.1) with the Irish Patents Office. The fee for filing an application may be paid at this time or within one month of that date.
If you are interested in protecting your trademark in other EU countries you can apply for a Community Trade Mark through the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market. International protection can be obtained by way of an application to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
Design Application forms
In order to apply for a Design registration, you must be the owner of the Design or the employer of the person who created the design if this was done in the course of the employment (subject to any contract or agreement to the contrary).
You should make the application before the design is made available to the public. To apply, submit the appropriate application form (for a single design or multiple designs) with the relevant fee.
You can get protection for your design across the EU with the Registered Community Design granted by the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market.
The WIPO-administered Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs offers a route to industrial design protection in multiple countries by filing a single application. The accession of the EU to the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement means that Irish applicants have an entitlement to file international industrial design applications using the Hague system by virtue of being nationals of an EU Member State or having a domicile, real and effective commercial or industrial establishment, or habitual residence, in the territory of a Member State of the EU.
You, as a Right Holder (of a patent/trademark etc.) may make an application to the Revenue Commissioners to take action to prevent the import, export, and re-export of goods suspected of infringing on your Intellectual Property Rights (when the goods are being imported from or exported to any country outside of the EU).