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Govt agrees to delay date of Patent referendum

The Government has agreed to defer the date for the referendum on the EU’s Unified Patent Court, Minister for Enterprise Peter Burke has confirmed.

It was expected that the referendum would take place on 7 June, the same date as the local and European elections.

“While the Government continues to believe that joining the UPC is essential and that the referendum should be pursued, it is clear to me that more time is needed for public discourse and engagement on the matter to help inform the debate,” Mr Burke said in a statement

“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.

“Feedback suggests that 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,” he added.

On the way into the Cabinet meeting this morning, Mr Burke said the Family and Care referendums, which were held last month, took 12 to 15 weeks to provide information to the public and that realistically a delay to the Patent referendum may be needed.

The Labour Party has criticised Mr Burke for bringing the memo to Cabinet, with Finance spokesperson Ged Nash saying the Unified Patent Agreement would be good for business.

He said it was a straightforward question to put to the people.

The referendum is required in order to give effect to a decision by Ireland to opt-in to the Unified Patent Court Agreement, which would harmonise patent rules across the European Union.

Seventeen countries across the EU have opted in to the agreement.

A constitutional referendum is needed to enable the transfer of jurisdictional powers from the Irish courts to the new international court.

Fianna Fáil’s Director for the Referendum, Senator Malcolm Byrne, said the agreement will “make life easier for Irish inventors and content creators and for small businesses who want to protect their ideas and products”.

He said Minister Burke should insist on proceeding with the referendum to “fight for small business and inventors”.

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