Patents - a brief history

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James I (1603-1625) by royal proclamation formally abolished the Brehon Laws and established English common law in Ireland. King James I revoked all existing monopolies and declare that they were only to be used for 'projects of new invention'. This was incorporated into the Statute of Monopolies 1623 in which Parliament restricted the crown's power explicitly so that the King could only issue letters patents to the inventors or introducers of original inventions for a fixed number of years.

The practice of granting monopolies for manufacture and the issuing of "letters patent " which were prerogatives of the Crown also applied to Ireland.

In the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14) the rules were changed again so that a written description of the article was given. "the patentee must by an instrument in writing describe and ascertain the nature of the invention and the manner in which it is to be performed"


During the 17th and 18th centuries very few patents were applied for in Ireland because of the circumlocution and expense involved. Prior to 1852 a separate petition (application) had to be made to the Crown in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and had to pass through various procedural stages both in Ireland and in England before being granted. The Patent Law Amendment Act of 1852 greatly reduced stamp duty payable, abolished Irish Patents and provided for one patent for Great Britain and Ireland issued by the newly established Patent Office in London.

1883 - 1927

With further legislative changes in 1883 (Patents and Designs Act) and 1907 (introduction of examination rather than just registration), it was UK patent law that applied in Ireland until the formation of Saorstat Eireann (the Irish Free State) in 1921. The new State adopted UK laws insofar as they were not inconsistent with the Constitution. However there was somewhat of a vacuum in relation to patents as there was no machinery in the State to provide for the grants of patents or the registration of trade marks and designs.

This situation began to be addressed in April of 1925 when an Industrial & Commercial Property Bill was introduced in the Dail.
On 4 December 1925, Saorstat Eireann acceded to the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. Following deliberation of an Oireachtas Joint Committee the 1925 Bill was withdrawn and a new Bill introduced in July 1926.


The 1926 Bill was eventually enacted as the Industrial & Commercial Property Protection Act 1927 and the Irish Patents Office was established with its headquarters at 45 Merrion Square, Dublin 2 headed by the Controller of Patents, Designs and Trademarks. Apart from a minor amending Act in 1929 it remained the law relating to patents for 37 years until 1964.


Extract from the first Patent registered under the Industrial and Commercial Properties (Protection) Act, 1927.

Patent Specification No. 10001.


Application Date, January 18th, 1928. 

Date of Acceptance of the Complete Specification, April 18th, 1929 

Date accorded under Section, 12, s.s. 2. (U.S.A.),
December 8th, 1925.

Patent application by Hannah Mary, Smith, Administratrix of the estate of the late Owen Patrick Smith.
Title: Starting cages for dogs and the like

Extracts from The First Annual Report.

"A subject which seems greatly to interest the Irish inventor is dog racing. All the applications received during the year appertaining to this popular modern sport came from citizens of Saorstat Eireann."

"I cannot allow this report to conclude without reference to an event of no little importance from the point of view of Constitutional Law and Patent History. In May 1929, the first Patent was granted under the provisions of the Industrial and Commercial Property (Protection) Act, 1927. This was the first instance of a grant of monopoly in this country by an Authority other than the British Crown.
Statutory Report of The Controller of Industrial and Commercial Property 1930.


In 1964 a new Patent Act was passed by the Oireachtas with the aim of modernising Irish law so as to keep it in step with that of the main industrial countries. One of the key features of the 1964 Act was the introduction of the concept of "universal novelty" i.e. that an invention was not known anywhere in the world rather than "not known within the State" which had previously applied.


The more recent revision of Irish Patent law took place with the enactment of the 1992 Patents Act. The Act was introduced principally to facilitate the ratification by Ireland of the European Patent Convention (EPC) and the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT). In addition, new streamlined procedures for the examination of patent applications were introduced. The 1992 Act also provided for the granting of short term patents, which have a life span of 10 years.


As part of the Government's Programme of Decentralisation, the Patents Office relocated to Kilkenny on Monday 31st August 1998, however, an information centre was retained in Dublin.