Q. I have a trade mark and I want to protect it worldwide. Is that possible?
A. There is no unitary worldwide trade mark or indeed worldwide patent system. There are, however, international treaties which enable simultaneous protection in a number of territories. For instance there is a European Union Trade Mark system which covers the 28 member States of the European Union and the Patent Cooperation Treaty under which there is unified procedure for filing patent applications to protect inventions in each of its contracting States. There are also a number of other International systems whereby protection can be sought in a variety of territories at the same time.
Q. Do I need to register my trade mark if I already have the same name registered as a business name at the Companies Office?
A. Registration of a business name or a company name at the Companies Office grants no rights to the use of that name. Statutory rights can only be obtained by registering the brand as a trade mark although in some instances common law rights can be obtained by use of the brand.
Q. What is the difference between the symbols ® and TM ?
A. The ® symbol or the word “registered” may only be used once a trade mark has been registered and it is an offence to use that symbol or word in relation to an unregistered trade mark. The TM symbol may be used even though the trade mark has not been registered.
Q. I have launched a new product and now I have received a letter from X Limited saying that my trade mark infringes their registered trade mark and that I must stop all further use, withdrawn the product and pay damages
A. It is imperative before launching a product under a new brand that a search is conducted through the databases of the trade mark registers of the territories where the product will be used to ensure that a similar trade mark is not already registered. A search through Google or some other search engine is not sufficient. This usually avoids letters such as that received from X Limited. As to dealing with the letter from X Limited, the response would depend on whether the trade marks and products/services are the same or similar and in some instances whether X Limited has used its trade mark. In most instances we are usually able to settle the matter without the necessity of expensive litigation in Court.
Q. I have thought of a new method for laying a road surface and I have drawings for a machine for doing it. Can I get a patent?
A. Patents are available for technical developments which are new, non-obvious and industrially applicable. Provided that your new method and machine have not been disclosed publicly in any way, and provided that the developments address and overcome a technical problem associated with the prior-known technology, then both the method and machine are patentable.
Q. I saw a handy gadget for sale while I was on holiday in Australia. Can I get a patent for it in Ireland?
A. No. A patent can only be granted to the inventor of an invention or to a party who has derived the rights from the inventor. Furthermore, patents can only be granted for new devices or methods. For an invention to be new, it must not have been disclosed to the public prior to the date of filing a patent application. Since the gadget was on sale in Australia, it is no longer new, and cannot be patented in Ireland.
Q. How do I register a patent?
A. Obtaining a patent is a process involving a series of stages. It is not a simple, once-off, step of registering with the patent office.
Q. What are the stages involved in obtaining a patent?
A. The first step in the process of obtaining patent protection is to file an application for a patent at the Patent Office. Within 12 months of filing the initial patent application Claims, which define the monopoly sought by the patent, must be added. The Claims should cover a general area around the example(s) of the invention described and shown in the drawings of the specification.
Q. Will the content of my patent application be kept secret?
A. No. Your patent application will be published 18 months after the initial filing date.