IPSANZ and patent amendments

One of the interesting sessions at the IPSANZ conference was David Catterns QC and the 2 Gregs talking about amending patent specifications – before and after grant.

I certainly wouldn’t disagree with the view that, all other things being equal, you should amend before litigation rather than during (although how often are all other things equal, especially for patents in multiple jurisdictions).¬†Australian law, at least insofar as it concerns amendments before the Commissioner, however, may be moving closer to the New Zealand situation.

The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Bill 2011 includes in Sch 1 at item 31 an amendment to s 102:

(2D) An amendment of a patent request or a complete specification is not allowable if it is of a kind prescribed by regulations made for the purposes of this section.

For some reason I have a (vague) recollection that this provision may be used to confer on the Commissioner through the Regs a discretion similar to that which the Court has under s 105. I am afraid I have not been able to re-locate wherever it was that I read or heard this.

Does anyone know any better or differently?

It doesn’t seem to be what the EM contemplates as the role for item 31 and one might have thought that there might be scope to expand the regulations made for the purposes of s 104 to effect that goal (if it were intended to be achieved) as it is the “narrowness” of those regulations which leads to the present situation.

One might question the constitutional desirability of putting such ‘substantive’ matters in the Regs rather than expressing them in the Act itself. However, that fight seems, sadly, to have been well and truly lost. In any event, if the introduction of such a discretion in the Commissioner be intended, it would surely be in everyone’s interests to amend the terms of s 104 itself to track the terms of s 105(1) rather than bury it away in the Regs.