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Minister for Enterprise Peter Burke Sasko Lazarov/
on hold

It's official: There won't be a patent referendum in June as Burke says 'more time is needed'

The referendum was set to be held in early June alongside the local and European elections.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS agreed to defer the date for the planned patent referendum. 

The referendum was set to be held in early June alongside the local and European elections.

The referendum relates to Ireland joining the Unified Patent Court. If passed, it would mean EU Member States can recognise each others’ patents. Currently, 17 countries across the EU take part in the Unified Patent Court (UPC), which opened last June. 

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.

However, Minister for Enterprise Peter Burke this afternoon confirmed that the Government has agreed to defer the date of the referendum. 

Burke said that while the Government continues to believe that joining the UPC is “essential”, he added that it is clear “more time is needed for public discourse and engagement on the matter to help inform the debate”. 

“The June elections will give rise to diverse issues and campaigns involving local and European candidates, which may crowd out a debate on the Patent Court,” Burke said.

The Minister said that feedback suggests “many people are unfamiliar with the Patent Court and there is not a significant level of awareness among the electorate ahead of the proposed referendum”.

“We need to have a broader discussion around the importance of Unitary Patents, the jurisdictional matters relating to the Court, and the economic benefits that joining the UPC would bring,” he said. 

“However, I believe considered debate around these subjects would be in danger of being lost among the other issues that will dominate the campaigns over the coming seven weeks.”

Tánaiste Micheál Martin had said on Friday that his view was that “we’re running out of time in respect of the local and European elections to hold the patent referendum”.

He said he has always believed that referendums should be held on their own and not in the context of other elections, and that this was an important referendum in its own right in terms of the industrial base of Ireland and the research that underpins a lot of jobs here.

When asked if the Government’s defeat in the 8 March referendums was a factor in the proposal to postpone the upcoming referendum, Martin denied this.

Fianna Fáil senator Malcolm Byrne criticised the move yesterday, stating that in his view, it is Burke’s “first big test” as minister. 

“This is Peter Burke’s first big test as enterprise minister, and if he’s going to go out there and fight for small business and content creators, this is the perfect example to show that we’re going to go ahead and do it,” Byrne told The Journal. 

“I get that it’s not a referendum that will excite everybody. But for those who are creating content, those who are inventing things, this is really important. We go out and fight for it,” he said. 

With reporting by Christina Finn and Jane Moore


It’s a busy year for elections around the world. Before you head out to vote, check out our new FactCheck Knowledge Bank for essential reads and guides to finding good information online.

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