Registering a Patent

Unlike other forms of intellectual property such as trade marks and copyrights, inventions that are available to the public cannot be protected without registration and government approval.


Unfortunately, preparing a patent application is an extremely complex process that involves the ability to thoroughly understand the science or technology involved in the invention, as well as the ability to describe it in a manner that is both specific enough to satisfy the patent examiner and broad enough to adequately protect the invention from use by others. In addition, the patent application will require you to publicly disclose the details of your invention, and in the end there is no guarantee that a valid patent will be issued.


However, if a patent is issued, you will be able to prevent any competitor from using your invention for either 10 years (if a short-term patent) or 20 years (if a long-term patent) , and in most cases will have an asset that will increase the value of your business and can be licensed out for royalties.


The first step in the patent application process is to research and review prior art to determine whether the same or similar invention has already been publicly discussed or used. If someone else wrote an academic paper discussing a similar solar process for turning straw into gold, then your invention will not be new and filing a patent application will be an expensive waste of time.


A simultaneous step is to make sure that no one has filed a patent application for the same invention with the Irish Patents Office (“IPO”), or with the European Patents Office (“EPO”) designating Ireland as a covered country. Ireland is a “first to file” country, so even if you came up with the idea first, if someone else beats you to the Patents Office then you will lose out on protecting your invention. For this reason, it is extremely important to file an application quickly and secretively if you feel like you have developed a patentable invention.


Once you’ve determined that your invention is new, useful, not obvious and not excluded by a statutory exception, the next step is to prepare a patent application and file it either with the IPO (www.patentsoffice.ie/en/patents.aspx) or the EPO.


The patent application must include a very detailed description of your invention, broken down into separate “claims” defining each element of the invention and the scope of the protection sought. Keep in mind that this description will be made public after 18 months from the filing date, so your competitors will be able to analyze the product or process you are using in your business. This in itself is sometimes a reason not to seek patent protection, and if a patent application is filed, the goal is to get the broadest protection possible in hopes of precluding others from designing around the patented invention.


Once the patent application has been filed with the IPO, or with the EPO designating Ireland as a covered country, no one else can file afterwards and take priority in Ireland. In addition, you will have twelve months to file in most other major countries and obtain priority there as well—assuming of course that no one else has previously filed in those locations.


The IPO or EPO may take a considerable amount of time, sometimes several years, to determine whether or not to issue you a patent on your invention. During that period, they may ask for certain clarifications that could delay the process even more, which is another reason to make sure your patent application is in order and sufficiently detailed when filing.


During the application process nobody In Ireland or the EU will be able to challenge or object to a patent being issued on your invention. Once a patent has been granted, however, a third party can apply for its revocation or alteration within nine months after the patent issuance notice has been published.


One other matter that must be determined is the appropriate person to file the patent application. Normally, the inventor of the invention is the owner, and also the person entitled to apply for the patent. However, if the invention was made either in the normal course of an employee’s duties, or in the course of a special project specifically assigned to him or her, then the invention will belong to the company or business owner. However, an invention created by an independent contractor will be owned by the contractor unless specifically assigned to the company.


In the end, if the IPO or EPO, as the case may be, determines that all or some of the claims in your patent application meet the tests involved, then they will issue a patent and you will find yourself with a very valuable asset. However, you will have to put in the necessary time and effort to protect and exploit that asset in order to maximize its value.

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