THE HISTORY OF THE ASSOCIATION
The history of the Association falls in four parts. Firstly, its
origins, which are protectionist and arguably anti-colonial in their
nature. Secondly, the stagnant years of the 1940s through to the 1970s when there was relatively little activity in the Association and the number of members of the Association remained small. Thirdly
the era which could be called the “emancipation of trade mark
agents” and fourthly, the expansion years which were accompanied
by new intellectual property legislation, much of it of an international
1929 was quite an eventful year. It was the year of the Wall Street
Crash and by December 1st, the New York Stock Exchange value had
dropped by over 26 billion dollars and the Great Depression had
begun. The first Academy Awards were held and Al Capone was sentenced
to a year in prison for carrying a concealed weapon. In the same
year the Association was founded by Sean MacEntee.
Sean MacEntee was a Belfast man born in 1889 who joined the Irish
Volunteers in 1915. He was involved in the Easter Rising of 1916
and was apparently one of the last people to leave the GPO in Dublin.
For his part in the Rising he was sentenced to death but the sentence
was commuted and he was interned by the British until the general
amnesty of 1918. In the same year he was elected to the new Dail
Eireann as the Sinn Fein candidate for County Monaghan. In the 1920s
he joined Fianna Fail while he worked as a Consulting Engineer and
remained in that party until his retirement from politics in the
1960s. He held many posts in the Government, including that of Minister
for Finance and also Minster for Health. He died in 1984. MacEntee
must have gained his interest in Patents when he worked as an assistant
engineer in Dundalk Urban District Council.
With the creation of the Irish Free State by the Anglo-Irish Treaty,
signed on December 6 1921, all patent and trade mark rights, previously
granted through the operation of the British Patent Office, were
no longer effective in the Free State. However, in 1927 legislation was passed by the Dáil which established the Industrial and Commercial Property Registration Office (re-designated the Patents Office by the Patents Act 1964) headed by a Controller
and former British rights which had not expired could be re-registered,
new inventions patented and trade marks registered. A Register of
Patent Agents was also set up for entry of the names of persons
and firms qualified to represent clients in connection with patent
work. To practice as a Patent Agent one had to have an office in
Ireland or be resident in Ireland.
Prior to the introduction of the above legislation, only one Patent
Agent operated in Ireland, namely Ewart. W. Doyle who advertised
his services extensively in the local press and could properly be
described as a ‘loner’’. ¹ In 1927 Hugh Donald
Fitzpatrick set up a practice with Andrew Hamilton and Hamilton
was the first individual Patent Agent to have his name inscribed
on the Irish register of patent agents on October 12 1927. Fitzpatrick's
father served with the British Army during the Crimean war and Hugh
was born on a naval troop ship anchored in Dublin Bay as the family
was returning home to the UK after hostilities had ended.²
Fitzpatrick had founded the Patent firm of Fitzpatricks in Scotland
in 1887 but shortly after the founding of H. D. Fitzpatrick &
Co. in Ireland, he sold the Dublin practice to Hamilton but continued
with an office in Belfast.
A number of the larger firms of British Patent Agents set up offices
in Dublin to handle the work resulting from the 1927 legislation
and three local Consulting Engineers, of whom Sean MacEntee was
one, were also registered as Patent Agents. A list of Patent Agents
compiled in Dublin in 1928 contained the names of 28 individuals,
24 of whom were British Patent Agents while the remaining 4 were
Ewart Doyle and the three local Consulting Engineers. An attempt
in 1928 to refuse to register the name of any British Patent Agent
who did not intend to be in constant attendance at his Dublin “business
address” was contested by a British Patent Agent, H. E. Potts
and the Controller was eventually persuaded to enter his name on
the Register, since the Act did not say that the Agent must be in
constant attendance at his office.
It soon became apparent that the bulk of the work, which mostly
came from abroad, was in the hands of the British Agents who were
residing in the United Kingdom and in 1929 the law was amended to
make it compulsory for a Patent Agent to have an office in Ireland
and be resident in Ireland if he/she wanted to act as an Agent in
this country. Nearly all the British Agents then left or transferred
their Irish businesses to those few who decided to reside here.
It is at this time (1929), that Sean MacEntee and his colleagues,
whom we believe were Frank Litton, James Dornan, Ewart Doyle and
Andrew Hamilton, decided to form the Association to protect their
The Dail Debates of the time for the 1929 Act make interesting reading
but not for the erudition of the debate as witnessed by this exchange
between Deputy Flinn and Deputy JJ Byrne:
Deputy FLINN: ”You can get a patent in France and in two or
three other countries for the price at which you can apply for a
patent in the Free State. You can get a patent for England and for
the Free State cheaper than you can get a patent for the Free State
alone. That is rather remarkable”.
Deputy BYRNE: “Will the Deputy substantiate that?”
Deputy FLINN: “If that baby would only be good!”
Deputy BYRNE: “If the Deputy would only be logical!”
Deputy FLINN: “He is evidently quite impossible. Some day
I shall have to spank that baby”.
Deputy BYRNE: “That may be more difficult than you anticipate”.
Deputy FLINN: “All right. He has not got a place to be spanked
In a later debate the fee of ten guineas being charged by a Patent
Agent was being discussed and Deputy Cummins made the following
Deputy CUMMINS: “I think that this handicap would weigh very
heavily on the Irish inventor and discourages Irish invention, if
it will not do away with it altogether. It would mean, moreover,
that an inventor in Saorstát Eireann before he could even
lodge his application for a patent would have to reveal the secret
to a patent agent, the seriousness of which members will readily
However, it would appear that the flight of the British Agents was
hasty and they need not have panicked and shut up shop. In a High
Court case against the Minister in 1931 by Hugh Donald Fitzpatrick,
it was held that a British Agent, who had been placed upon the register
prior to the passing of the 1929 Act, could not be removed. Sean
Lemass, later to be Taoiseach, asked the Minister what he proposed
to do about this situation and he replied:
Minister McGILLIGAN: ”The courts decided that the action which
I have taken and which put certain English patent agents off the
register was not legal, and that these people must be put back.
The court decision pretty well amounts to this, that the Act which
we passed will have effect with regard to new applicants, but that
any agents who were previously on could not be removed—in
other words, that the Act was not retrospective. When I brought
in that particular piece of legislation it was represented to me
((presumably by Mr. MacEntee)) that there were quite a number of
people who were able to take on the work of patent agents in the
country, that there was quite a lucrative field of employment which
had been occupied by outsiders, and it was aimed at getting that
field of employment for our own people. An examination was held,
and, as far as I remember, four people obtained the qualifications
to go on the register, but since then that number has diminished.
There has been one death, and some of the others, I am informed
by the office, do not appear to be taking patent work seriously.
Consequently, there is a very definite dearth of patent agents who
would have the double qualification, if we insisted on re-establishing
the new condition with regard to those who had been previously on
Having won his case, H. D. Fitzpatrick politely said “Now
I will ask you to take my name off the Register”. After the
case, those British Patent Agents whose names had been removed from
the Register could have been reinstated but none of them was interested.³
The Act and Rules provided that the Minister could register as a
Patent Agent anyone who satisfied him as to his education and technical
qualifications and that he could prescribe examinations to satisfy
himself that any applicant had attained the necessary qualifications.
The opportunity to hold an examination occurred in 1931 when the
initial rush of work in the Patents Office had subsided and about
six temporary examiners there were given notice to terminate their
engagement. However, to soften the blow they were told that they
could sit the examination and hopefully become Patent Agents. An
examination was set up by eminent University professors aided by
the Controller and a legal luminary. About ten candidates sat, these
being either Patent Office Examiners or Registered Clerks but only
one passed and he was an Examiner (Francis R. Kelly) and he had
no wish at that time to give up his civil service position to enter
the profession4. Francis (Laddie) Kelly would eventually
join the profession when he purchased H. D. Fitzpatrick & Co.
in 1948 from Andrew Hamilton.
On Mr. MacEntee’s appointment as Minister for Finance in 1932,
his colleague, Francis Litton5, who was acting as Secretary
of the Association, circulated the members with a notice to the
effect that the Association was “suspended” until such
time as Mr. MacEntee could return as he now had to devote his energies
to the affairs of the State. However, the other members decided
to carry on with Malcolm Cruickshank acting as Secretary and a chairperson
being elected at each meeting.
THE STAGNANT YEARS
When World War II broke out (or the Emergency as it’s known
in this country) in 1939, business for Patents Agents fell at once
to about 30% of normal levels as members were unable to obtain instructions
from their associates and clients in many of the belligerent countries.
Particularly affected was the payment of annuities for the renewal
of patent and trade marks and Andrew Hamilton took it upon himself
at his own expense to maintain many of the more valuable patents
and trade marks 6. Otherwise the affairs of the Association
went on more or less as usual, albeit with only 3 or 4 active members
in the three existing Patent firms, namely Cruickshank & Co,
Tomkins & Co and Fitzpatrick & Co (to be renamed F.R. Kelly
& Co in 1952). By 1955 only 4 names remained on the Patent Register
and one of those was Sean McEntee, who as Minister was in charge
of the Register. He must have valued his status as a Patent Agent
since he maintained his name on the Register for over 30 years while
he held Ministerial rank in the Irish Government, although he is
not thought to have taken any active part in the patent business,
which was carried on by his partner.
From 1929 to 1966, the meetings were chaired on an ad hoc basis
but in 1967 Arthur
Tomkins was elected as President and was elected annually
to that position until he retired from the position in 1983. Arthur
Tomkins came to Ireland from England in 1930 to purchase a practice
and remained here for the next 74 years and almost right up until
his death in 2004 at the age of 104, took an active interest in
the affairs of the Association. Following upon Mr. Tomkins’
retirement as President, a rule was enacted that a President could
serve for a maximum of 3 years.
In 1976, due mainly to the efforts of Michael McShane and Andrew
Parkes, the Association for the first time developed a proper set
of written Rules and a Code of Conduct for its members. It was also
at the behest of Michael McShane that the Association became a nominating
body on the Industrial Panel for Seanad Eireann elections.
“EMANCIPATION OF THE TRADE MARK AGENT”
1963 had seen the introduction of the Trade Marks Act, 1963 and
a Register of Trade Mark Agents was set up. This apparently came
as a surprise as no Patent Agent had asked for it 7.
However, all the Patent Agents were entered in the new Trade Marks
Register and so were officially recognised as members of this new
On the other hand the Association was slow to recognize this profession
and up to the mid 1980s, the name of the Association remained as
the "Association of Patent Agents" since Trade Mark Agents
were only permitted “associate membership” but that
Rule was changed in 1985 and the name of the Association was altered
to the Association of Patent and Trade Mark Agents.
Prior to 1993 to become President of the Association a member had
to be both a qualified Patent and Trade Mark Agent. Since all Patent
Agents were also Trade Mark Agents, this in practice limited the
Presidency to Patent Agents, since there were few Trade Mark Agents
who were also Patent Agents. However, this Rule was changed in 1993
and so that a member who is qualified only as a Patent Agent or
as a Trade Mark Agent may be elected President of the Association.
Cliff Kennedy became the first non-Patent Attorney to be elected
President in 2001.
THE EXPANSION YEARS
There is no doubt that the IP business expanded enormously in this
country during the last two decades of the 20th century. By 1982
there were only 20 active members. Twenty-five years later there
were over 60 full members and numerous student, associate and life
Up to 1967 there had only been 3 specialist IP firms, namely Tomkins
& Co, F R Kelly & Co and Cruickshank & Co. But as the
work slowly started to grow opportunities arose and Norman MacLachlan
was the first to make the break when he left Tomkins & Co to
set up N W MacLachlan & Co in 1967 (renamed MacLachlan &
Donaldson in 1972). Others followed from various practices in due
course to set up their own firms including Frank Gorman, Dermot
Cummins, Anne Ryan, John O’Brien, Michael Weldon and Peter
In the 1970s and early 1980s, the Patents Office due to Governmental
staff constraints had developed a large backlog in the examination
of trade mark applications and related matters. By 1981 the time
lag between filing an application and having that application examined
had grown to 5 years and seven months. In that year Maurice Kennedy
joined the Patents Office from the National Prices Commission as
Assistant Controller with a brief to tackle the logjam. This he
and his colleagues achieved with great success and by the end of
1984 the backlog was a thing of the past, much to the relief and
delight of the members of the Association and their clients. Maurice
left the Patents Office in January 1985.
Some of the Association’s members played leading roles in
international intellectual property bodies. Martin Tierney was the
President of ECTA (European Community Trade Mark Association) from
1983-4 while Andrew Parkes was President of UNION (Union of European
Practitioners in Industrial Property) from 1990-3 and was subsequently
elected an Honorary President. The Irish Group of UNION was set
up in 1974, shortly after Ireland signed the EPC (although Ireland
did not ratify it until 1992). The founder members of the Irish
Group were all of the eight Patent Agents on the Irish Register
at the time. Other Patent Agents who qualified over the next ten
years also joined UNION, so that the Irish Group had 100% membership
among the Irish patent profession over a long period of time. The
group hosted the Dublin Congress of UNION in 1987.
Shortly after the Munich Diplomatic Conference of 1973, the Association
published a booklet summarising the important provisions of the
Convention on the Grant of European Patents (EPC). A second edition
of the booklet was brought out in 1976 while in 1988 the Association
published a booklet entitled Patents, Designs and Trade Marks in
Ireland. Around the same time (January 1987), Martin Tierney, a member of the Association, wrote the first book in Ireland exclusively dedicated to intellectual property called Irish Trade Marks Law and Practice. In 1997, Martin's colleague, Shane Smyth, with co-author Professor Bob Clark, published a book entitled Intellectual Property Law in Ireland (since reprinted in 2004 and 2011 (with Niamh Hall also being co-author to the latter edition)).
The 1990s witnessed a flood of new intellectual property legislation,
much of it changing forever the nature of the work of the members
and adding an extra international dimension to that work. The Competition
Act lead the way in 1991 and which was the impetus for the Association
to change its rules, albeit only after many heated debates, to permit
advertising by its members, while the Association also ended its
practice of agreeing standard charges among its members.
In 1992 the Patents Act came in to force, replacing the 1964 Act
and enabled Ireland to ratify the European Patent Convention (EPC)
which had been enacted in 1973 to strengthen co-operation between
the States of Europe in respect of the protection of inventions.
The European Patent Office (EPO), located in Munich, was responsible
for the grant of European patents in accordance with the EPC and
Irish Patent Attorneys would henceforth have a right of appearance
at the EPO in Munich. The same 1992 Act also resulted in Ireland
ratifying the Patent Co-Operation Treaty (PCT), the main objective
of which was the streamlining of patent application filing and novelty
search procedures for applicants wishing to obtain patent protection
in a wide number of countries around the world. The 1992 Act also
introduced short term patents for the first time. Continuing the
international developments, the Community Trade Mark came in to
force in 1996 and the Association lobbied to have the Community
Trade Marks Office located in Dublin but lost out to Alicante in
Spain. In the same year the Trade Marks Act, 1996 replaced the 1963
Act and permitted the registration of service marks for the first
The Association was consulted by the Government on both the Patents
Act, 1992 and the Trade Marks Act, 1996 and many of its recommendations
were incorporated in the final legislation. In this connection the
1990s also saw the formation by the Government of an Intellectual
Property Unit (IPU) which was responsible for the development of
intellectual property policy, the preparation of legislation and
the provision of an intellectual property regime which reflected
the international law environment and best practice. The Unit was
also to act as a liaison section between the Department and the
Patents Office on policy and legislative matters. The President
of the Association is invited to sit at formal meetings of IPU.
The Gearoid O’Sullivan Memorial Award was
instituted in 1997 in memory of Gearoid who had died suddenly the
previous year at the age of 41. Gearoid was a Patent Agent with
Tomkins & Co at the time of his death from an asthma attack,
having previously worked for MacLachlan & Donaldson and F F
Gorman & Co.
In 1998, the Patents Office moved from its home of 71 years at 45
Merrion Square, Dublin 2, to Hebron Road in Kilkenny.
Ireland ratified the Madrid Protocol on 19 July 2001 and the Protocol
entered into force, with respect to Ireland, on 19 October 2001,
bringing yet a further international dimension to the work of the
members of the Association and enabling members to protect their
clients’ trade marks on a direct international basis.
In 2002, the name of the Association was changed to the Association
of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys and the Association set up its
Industrial designs followed their patent and trade mark cousins
by becoming available for European Union wide protection on April
1 2003, such applications being handled by The Community Trade Marks
and Designs Office in Alicante under the European Union’s
new Community system for the protection of designs.
In 2005, the Association adopted a new crest but which incorporated
elements of the old design.
In the same year Peter Mole from the United Kingdom was elected
the first Honorary Member and he donated a beautiful silver plate
to the Association.The Association named this kind gift "The
Honorary Members Plate" and is now presented as an award to
individual members of the Association who have made a special contribution
to the Association and can encompass contributions to social events,
committees, education or any other aspect of the Association. In 2008, the Association also had the pleasure of electing its first Overseas Members, Eric and Margaret Ramage from the United Kingdom. In 2013 Niamh Hall was elected the first female President of the Association.
The Association has come a long way since its foundation
in 1929. It has flourished and has done a great deal to assist in
the healthy development and protection of intellectual property
rights in general, both in Ireland and abroad, and its activities
have extended far beyond its original aim of protecting the interests
of Irish Patent Agents.
1 From an address by Mr. N. W. Waddleton, President of
the UK Chartered Institute of Patent Agents, to the members of that
organisation in December 1980 and entitled “The British Patent
Agent in the last 100 years”.
2 From a History of Fitzpatrick & Co.
3 see 1 above.
4 see 1 above
5 Litton was a Francophil who served as a poilu in the
French Army in the First World War and many of whose intellectual
property files were maintained in French ((from a discussion with
6 Hamilton, though a loyal subject of His Majesty, happened
to have a large German clientele, including the infamous, I G Farben
conglomerate. During the Second World War, Hamilton was unable to
get any instructions from his German clients regarding the payment
of Patent Annuities or Trade Mark renewals. He nonetheless kept
the entire portfolio renewed and intact at his own expense so that
when the Allied Control Commission set about trying to restore German
industry ruined by the war, they found the Irish intellectual property
rights still intact ((from a discussion with Martin Tierney)).
7 see 1 above.
of the Association have been as follows:
1929-1967 No President
1967-1983 Arthur Tomkins
1983-1986 Peter Kelly
1986-1989 Norman MacLachlan
1989-1991 Andrew Parkes
1991-1994 Donal O'Connor
1994-1997 Gerald Kinsella
1997-1999 Peter Shortt
1999-2001 Frank Gorman
2001-2004 Cliff Kennedy
2004-2007 Lindsay Casey
2007-2009 Michael Kiernan
2011-2013 Denis McCarthy
2013-2015 Niamh Hall
2015- Simon Gray
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