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Hold your horses

Government to consider scrapping upcoming referendum on United Patent Court

The referendum had been set to take place alongside the local and European elections in June.

THE GOVERNMENT IS set to consider postponing the upcoming patent referendum at next week’s Cabinet meeting. 

The referendum was set to be held in early June alongside the local and European elections, however it is understood a memo will go to Cabinet next week asking ministers to decide whether to proceed with the referendum as planned or postpone it. 

Taoiseach Simon Harris is understood to have indicated at last night’s parliamentary party meeting that the referendum is to be postponed.

The referendum relates to Ireland joining the Unified Patent Court. If passed, it would mean EU Member States can recognise each others’ patents.

In order to solve any disputes that may arise through the patent court, an amendment to Article 29 of the Constitution is needed through a referendum.

Government has previously argued it would harmonise the registration and recognition of patents throughout the EU with a single court to rule on disputes.

A total of 17 countries across the EU take part in the Unified Patent Court, which opened in June of last year.

Junior Minister Neale Richmond previously described the new system as an “incredible opportunity” for Irish businesses as it would significantly reduce the cost of patenting something across multiple countries.

Responsibility for the referendum lies in the Department of Enterprise, where Peter Burke has just been appointed Minister for Enterprise. 

It is understood the rationale behind the memo being brought to Cabinet next week is there are fears about putting it before a volatile electorate, in light of the the family and care referendums being voted down recently by the public. 

The government believes it is an important referendum that will help business and must pass, but it is “risky” to run the referendum in the short-term. 

A spokesperson for Sinn Féin said the party is yet to take a position on the referendum.

Sinn Féin has traditionally called for a no vote in referendums that transfer powers out of Ireland, and there was speculation that the party may not back a yes vote in the referendum on the patent court.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne said reports that the referendum is now under review are “extremely concerning”.

He said: “We should proceed with this referendum and get out there and fight for it. The referendum is exclusively about Irish competitiveness and ensuring that Irish inventors have an easier and more cost-efficient way of protecting their inventions and their ideas.”

With reporting from Christina Finn 

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