Ireland, insists Naill Tierney, is “by far” the best place in which to locate your company’s Intellectual Property (IP) portfolios. And he should know.
A European Trademark and Design lawyer, for more than two decades now, Tierney has brought his experience to bear in Ireland, Britain and Switzerland. More accurately, this lies chiefly in the areas of clearance, protection, enforcement and exploitation of, for example, a company’s brand, logo, designs and trademarks.
The Dublin-based barrister also claims the distinction of being the first practitioner from Ireland and the United Kingdom to be appointed as representative before the European Union Trademarks and Designs Office (OHIM) in 1996.
“Ireland is especially good if your company’s portfolios comprise pan-EU Soft IP rights such as Community Trademarks and Registered Community Designs,” said Tierney, who is described as “a highly rated individual with a strong reputation” by the leading UK law firm guide The Legal 500.
“There are many reasons for favouring Ireland, but certainly one of the main advantages is that Ireland is the only official English-speaking member state of the EU currently resident in the Euro zone. This means that a company registering here wouldn’t face any exchange rate transfers or currency transaction fees.”
And indeed in our increasingly digital age companies should be more concerned than ever about protecting their intellectual property rights, according to experts at the Intellectual Property Research Centre of Imperial College London.
That’s because, they believe a firm’s IP determines their share and influence on the market, particularly in relation to their reputation, level of returns on investments and access to their market.
“The way a company is valued has also changed considerably,” said a spokesman for ICL. “In the mid 70s, approximately 80% of the value of a company was made up of tangible assets, with the remaining 20% being made up of intangible assets.
“Today this is completely reversed, with intangible assets making up 80% of the value of the company and only 20% being made up of tangible assets.”
Ireland’s 1500 year old IP tradition
Interestingly – and part incredulously – the whole concept of protecting IP in Ireland first raised its head in a dispute between two Saints. St Columba and St Finnian both argued over intellectual ownership of a Book of Psalms belonging to St Finnian. St Columba had copied the book and intended to keep it. But his plan was thwarted by St Finnian who insisted it should remain with himself. The dispute was brought before the king of the time – Diarmait – who judged: “To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs its copy.”
How Commercial IP in Ireland works
Around 50 per cent of IP cases which appear in front of the Irish Commercial Court (also known as the Community Trade Mark and Designs Court for Ireland) conclude within three to months, said Tierney. The court – one of the most technologically-advanced in the European Union – deals with a variety of IP disputes and his year welcomed the creation of a new Court of Appeal, resulting in cases being resolved even quicker than before.
Constitutional protection for IP rights.
Ireland’s written Constitution protects property rights while Article 40.3.2° protects inter-alia the property rights of corporations based in Ireland. Article 43.2.1° prohibits the Irish State from abolishing the right of private ownership or the general right to transfer; bequeath the private ownership of external goods.
IP rights secure the same Constitutional protection as physical property (see Supreme Court decisions – Phonographic Performance (Ireland) Ltd v Cody (1998) and Re Article 26 and the Employment Equality Bill 1996).
Ireland allows for more effective and streamlined enforcement of EU Trade Marks (CTMs) and Designs
Businesses that own EU Trade Marks (known as CTMs) and RCDs and are based (or were established) out with the European Union will have difficulties enforcing their rights, especially if their opponent is lives in a country which is not an EU state.
This is the reason it makes sense for non-EU domiciled businesses to locate their Soft IP rights in Ireland. That, and the fact that the court is English-speaking, the judicial system is sympathetic to IP claims and that Ireland itself sits within the Euro zone.
Ireland’s modern Intellectual property law and outlook
“When it comes to soft IP law, Ireland has modern and comprehensive legislation to protect all types of Soft IP rights,” says Tierney, who has represented clients in sectors such as FMCG, fashion, information technology, broadcasting/entertainment and pharmaceuticals.
“The Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 was enacted to bring Ireland’s Copyright regime in line with new technological advances, particularly in the digital sphere. You’ll find that most works in Ireland are now protected for the life of the author plus 70 years from death.
“Under the Industrial Designs Act 2001, registered designs are protected for five year intervals up to 25 years. Ireland was actually the first country in the European Union to make a reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union on an issue of un-registered design right.
“Ireland is also a ‘first to use’ country. Provided you can demonstrate a business goodwill and reputation here, then un-registered rights can be protected under the Common law tort of Passing off, even in the absence of a formal registration.”
And if that wasn’t convincing enough, Tierney points out that Ireland is also a signatory to 58 different Intellectual Property international treaties and conventions.
Ireland means easy relocation of non-EU IP management teams.
For countries outside the EU, it’s not particularly difficult to transfer non-EU senior management, key personnel and even trainees across to Ireland – thanks to the ’Intra Transfer Employment’ permit.
Ireland boasts one of the most respected legal professions in the world.
In fact, one European Commission study on third level education, concluded that Ireland produced the ‘most highly employable graduates in the world,’ said Tierney, who also points to the fact that Irish unit Labour costs have been reducing post-2012 and that it takes less than 10 days to incorporate a company in Ireland.
Meanwhile leading business magazine Forbes® has been taking note, two years ago ranking Ireland as the best place in the world to do business. That’s not bad as accolades go…