Freedom of Information
The Freedom of Information Act 2014, establishes the following three legal rights for members of the public:
- a legal right for each person to access information held by public bodies;
- a legal right for each person to have official information relating to him/herself amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading and
- a legal right to obtain reasons for decisions affecting him/herself.
Records are covered by the FOI Acts
The following records come within the scope of the Act:
- All records relating to personal information held by the Patents Office, irrespective of when created.
- All other records created from commencement date i.e. 21st April 1998.
- Any other records necessary to the understanding of a current record.
- Personnel records of staff created from 21st April 1995 and those created prior to that date where being used or proposed to be used in a way which adversely affects or may affect the person involved.
Any official records held can be sought under the Acts. However, in certain circumstances it will be necessary to exempt records from release. Sections 19-32 of the 1997 Act outline exemptions which have to be considered. Some key exemptions include:
- Government Records.
- Personal information (other than information relating to the person making the request).
- Information supplied in confidence.
- Law enforcement and public safety.
- Commercially sensitive information.
- Deliberations of public bodies.
- Functions and negotiations of public bodies
The legislation which governs the operations of the Patents Office provides for public access to a considerable amount of information held by the Office. Access to such information which is outside the scope of the FOI Act, will be made available on the basis of existing legislation. It should be noted that much of the information available is subject to the payment of a fee and as such is outside of the scope of FOI by virtue of Section 46(2) of the FOI Act. Section 46 of the 1997 Act, as amended by the 2003 Act, sets out the restrictions on the application of the FOI Act.
How can an FOI request be made?
Applications under the FOI Act should be made in writing and addressed to:
David Hyde, Freedom of Information Officer, Patents Office, Government Buildings, Hebron Road, Kilkenny or by email to email@example.com
- State clearly that the request is made under the FOI Acts.
- Identify clearly the records/information sought.
- Specify the manner of access sought i.e. photocopy, computer disk, etc.
Include a daytime telephone number, if possible, so that you may be contacted quickly if it is necessary to clarify details of your request.
If you need some assistance with compiling your application you may contact the FOI Unit at - 056 7720124
There is no application fee required when requesting information under the FOI Act 2014. However if your request is for non-personal information, where the estimated SRC (search, Retrieval & Copying fees) is in excess of the ‘appropriate minimum amount’ provided for in Section 37(3)(d), charging of the SRC is mandatory. A deposit is payable where the estimated cost of search and retrieval of records sought is estimated to exceed 'appropriate minimum amount'. In such a case, every effort will be made to assist the requester to amend the request so as to reduce or eliminate the amount of the deposit.
The relevant fee should be paid by EFT, Money Order or Postal Order made payable to "The Patents Office".
Search and Retrieval and Copying Fees
Fees also apply in respect of the time spent searching and retrieving records that are released to you on foot of you request and in respect of the copying of any records released. Such fees are unlikely to arise if your request is for personal information. The rates of these fees are as follows:
€20.95 per hour of search and retrieval
€0.04 per sheet for a photocopy
€0.51 for a three and a half inch computer diskette containing copy documents
€10.16 for a CD-ROM containing copy documents
€6.35 for a radiograph (X-ray) containing copy documents
Reductions and Waivers
A fee in respect of search and retrieval and copying of records will be waived where the cost of collecting and accounting for the fee would exceed the amount of the fee itself (a guideline of less than €10 is used in this respect);
A fee in respect of search and retrieval and copying of records or a deposit may be reduced or waived where the information in the record would be of particular assistance to the understanding of an issue of national importance.
A charge applies to most internal and independent reviews (Information Commissioner) concerning access to non-personal records. There is a reduction for medical card holders. These will be notified to you at the appropriate time by the relevant public body.
Right of Appeal
If you are unhappy with the decision which is made on your request, you can appeal it by making an application for an internal review. A fee of €30 (€10 for medical card holders and their dependents) applies to requests for an internal review of a decision on a non-personal request. There is no fee for an internal review of a request for personal information or in the case of a late decision on a non-personal request.
Office of the Information Commissioner - http://www.irlgov.ie/oic/
Central Policy Unit, Department of Finance - http://www.foi.gov.ie/