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Inventor Thomas Edison who invented and marketed one of the first lightbulb designs for widespread use. Alamy Stock Photo

There's going to be ANOTHER referendum this year and it's on... patents

Anyone excited for the Unified Patent Court vote? Well, it’s taking place in June.

MEMBERS OF THE public will be casting their votes on three referendums in the coming months, it has been confirmed. 

While referendums on expanding the definition of family and women in the home will be held on 8 March, a third referendum will also be held on the same day as the European and local elections in June. 

While notably not the most exciting of topics, the third referendum will be held on international patents. 

In a nutshell, the referendum on Ireland joining the Unified Patent Court, if passed, means EU Member States can recognise each others’ patents. 

Government argues that it will 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.

Confirming that the proposed date to hold the referendum is June, Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise Neale Richmond said he attended the inauguration of the Court in Luxembourg last year, stating that he could see the benefits that the system would bring to Ireland.

“Put simply, this system will allow businesses to avail of a single patent that will take effect across 17 EU member states rather than purchasing a patent in each of these countries. The savings for businesses speak for themselves.

“If a company holds a patent for ten years, the average lifetime, it will cost it less than €4,700. If the company was to buy these patents in these individual countries, it would cost it over €30,000. This is an incredible opportunity for Irish businesses,” said the minister. 

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.

Richmond told the Seanad today that the issue is a “really important issue for Irish businesses, Irish inventors, Irish people, and so many people in Ireland and beyond who will benefit from all these new creations and inventions and the business and commerce that will flow”.

Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney brought the proposal to Cabinet this morning to agree a date for the referendum alongside the local and European elections which are due to take place on the first weekend of June.

The Minister also sought approval for the priority drafting of a Bill to give effect to the proposed constitutional amendment.

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