This is the area of intellectual property law which protects ideas, registration of which can be complicated and expensive. A patent confers upon its holder, for a limited period, usually 20 years, the exclusive right to exploit (making, using, selling, distributing, importing) the patented invention, and excludes any other party doing any of these things without 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 patent something, it:
- It must be novel (cannot be anticipated by the work that came before in this area, this is known as ‘The Prior Art’)
- An Inventive step is required – (‘it needs to cater to a long felt want’)
- It is capable of industrial application – (that is must actually work in practice)
It is important to note that when sending a cease and desist letter to a potential Defendant, who you think is infringing your patent, that you need to be very careful as to what you say. As under the Patent Act of 1992, if it turns out you were incorrect, they can sue you for threatening them. In practice, what therefore usually happens is, that a cease and desist letter is not sent, the letter sent merely point out to them that your patent exists.
The Following have been found not to be the subject of or able to be patented, for public policy reasons:
- Processes for cloning human beings
- Processes for modifying the germ line genetic identity of Human Beings (often known as eugenics)
- Uses of human embryos for industrial or commercial processes –
- Any processes for modifying the genetic identity of animals which is likely to cause them pain and suffering, unless they cause substantial medical benefit to humans or animals.
While a patent normally lasts 20 years, Ireland does offer a short term 10-year patent, with less stringent requirements. Patents are territorial, in effect. In other words, an Irish patent is only valid in Ireland. Unlike Trade Marks, where you can obtain European wide protection, (there are plans for one) there are currently no European wide patents available.
You should think of your intellectual property like you do your other assets, and protect them! We will be happy to assist you with any area of Intellectual Property law.
We can also offer you a Intellectual Property Audit, at a cost to be agreed in advance.