Wednesday, 26 April 1972
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Ryan: asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce why the Irish Patent Office takes longer than other patent offices abroad to make decisions on applications; the average time between applications and decisions; if steps will be taken as a matter of urgency to improve the system; and, if not, why.
Mr. Lalor: There is a large backlog of patent applications in the Patents Office and the average delay before examination is begun is about 4½ years; this includes a period of up to three years which it normally takes before an application is fully documented and put in order by the applicant for examination. The backlog which has built up over a number of  years is due mainly to recurring shortages of staff with the necessary qualifications and experience for the specialised work involved. The system for dealing with patent applications is kept under constant review and measures to improve procedure within the framework of the Act and rules are introduced from time to time.
Mr. Ryan: Arising from the Minister's astonishing admission of total failure in regard to the Patents Office, could he give us some concrete assurances now that this disgraceful position will be remedied so as to put an end to the present system under which people can apply and obtain a patent from Britain in a matter of months while it takes 4½ years to get a patent in Ireland, all of which results in serious loss to the State here through loss of fees for patents and also to a loss of ultimate revenue in earnings?
Mr. Lalor: While the delay on the face of it seems enormous I did stress the point that the first three years are often spent in endeavouring to get full documentation from applicants. I am conscious of the fact that the situation there does not measure up to what I should like to see and the point I stressed in the reply is that we have had recurring shortages of staff. I want to inform the Deputy and the House that this year for the first time we have the full complement of staff which was sanctioned in 1965 for this office. I hope that arising from the fact that the goal of maximum staff has been reached there will be a boring into the backlog of applications there at present.
Mr. Ryan: And 12 per cent of them are Irish and most of them have already got patents from England, America and elsewhere and cannot get an Irish patent from the Irish Patents Office and for the past seven years this disgrace has been going on.
Mr. Lalor: I said there were 7,000 applications but they are not Irish. In actual fact, the total number of applications in 1972 from Ireland was 211 and from outside the country 1,675. It is not a question of a stack of Irish applications.
Mr. Ryan: Because Irish inventors are getting patents in England. They cannot afford to wait for the Irish Patents Office to deal with their applications and England is getting the credit for Irish inventions.
Mr. Ryan: asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he is satisfied that the present patent system in Ireland adequately encourages, protects and assists Irish inventors; if he is aware that the number of Irish inventors is less per head of the population than in any other country with a patent system; and whether any changes in the system are contemplated.
Mr. Lalor: I am satisfied that the patent system in Ireland as embodied in the Patents Acts, 1964 and 1966, and the Patents Rules, 1965 to 1970, encourages, protects and assists native inventors to the same extent as patent systems elsewhere. I am aware that the  number of Irish inventors per head of the population is small but this is not because of the provisions of the Patents Acts. No fundamental changes in the system are contemplated at present.
Mr. Ryan: Would the Minister consider adding to his reply that the legislation is adequate when operated and that the protection is adequate when operated but at the moment it is totally inadequate due to the incompetence and failure of the Minister?
Mr. Lalor: If the Deputy had listened to my earlier reply I did indicate that there are delays of up to three or 4½ years in dealing with applications and therefore any backlog is built up over a period of three to 4½ years.
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