Intellectual Property

Anybody can have a great business idea but ideas themselves cannot be protected. If you tell a friend your idea and they make a fortune from it. you have no legal standing to sue them. The only way you can protect your idea is to work on it. If you have an idea for a song for instance. You first need to write the song on paper and then publish it online. Once that’s done you will have it protected. If it’s an idea for a unique product, then you can work on a prototype. You next have technical drawings made showing the unique mechanism involved. Then search the patent office database to see if it’s not already patented. It’s at this point you can apply for a patent and will have a legal case if anyone infringes on your property.


Intellectual property is divided into the following areas.

  • Copyright
  • Patent
  • Trade mark
  • Design


Protecting original work by copyright covers any literary or dramatic work as well as musical and artistic compositions. It also includes sound and TV recordings and now computer programmes and databases.

It stops others from copying or performing the work or making it available to the public through broadcasts. They also can’t make any adaptations of the work.


In Ireland there is no official way to register copyright. The date of ownership has to be proven in court. This can be done by publishing the work. You may also register a copy with a solicitor or send a copy to yourself through registered post. The internationally recognised symbol © is used to show that a work is protected.


A patent prevents others from making, using or selling, importing an invention. To be eligible the it must be new. It must involve an inventive step and be capable of industrial application. Irish patents last for a maximum of twenty years. There is also a ‘short-term’ of ten years. Annual renewal fees need to be paid each year from the third year. An Irish patent is only valid in Ireland.

Items approved for patent

  • It should be a new invention. It is considered new if it has not being made public before the date of filing the application.
  • The invention should involve an ‘Inventive step’. This involves a step that is not known to a person skilled in that field of technology.
  • The invention must be capable of ‘Industrial application’. It has been made for use in an industry or agriculture process.

Patents Searching is available at https://www.patentsoffice.ie/en/Patents/Patent-Searching/

Patent protection outside Ireland

Trade mark

A trade mark is how a business identifies its goods or services. They can contain words and designs or logos. They may also contain letters or numbers. It may just be the shape of the goods and packaging that’s Trade marked.

Searching for Trade Marks is available at https://eregister.patentsoffice.ie/query/TMQuery.aspx.

The internationally recognised Trade mark symbol are.

  • ® The letter ‘R’ surrounded by a circle stands for a registered trademark.
  • ™ The ‘trademark symbol’ or ‘TM’ stands for an unregistered trademark.


The appearance of a product is called Design. This may include the lines and contours or the colour. It may also include the shape and texture or materials.

  • It must be new and have individual character
  • The phase ‘New’ means that it has no identical design made public before.
  • The design must be different from any earlier design published.


Designs that can be protected are manufactured products such as the shape of a designer shoe. They could also be the design of a soda bottle like the famous Coke bottle design. Protection is granted first for 5 years and then renewed for four or five years after that. They can be protected for a maximum of 25 years. An application should be made within 12 months of the date that they are made public.

Design Searching at  https://www.patentsoffice.ie/en/Designs/Design-Searching/.