IP Australia is seeking comments on how the innovation patent system is working.
Ann innovation patent need show only an innovative step over the prior art to be valid. According to the Full Court in Delnorth, this requires a difference that the person skilled in the art would understand makes a
substantialmaterial contribution to how the product / method works. As the Full Court acknowledged, this is nothing like the inventive step requirement for a standard patent. See also the SNF case.
According to IP Australia’s website:
Since the Delnorth (2009) decision in the Federal Court, relatively obvious minor improvements to inventions have been patentable. There has been an unusual growth of innovation patent applications for certain technologies. There is some evidence that larger companies might be using the innovation patent system to extend the life of their patents and deliberately targeting competitors.
ACIP is already undertaking a review into the innovation patent system as a whole. The consultation paper for this (IP Australia’s) review explains:
The Advisory Council on Intellectual Property is presently conducting a review of the Innovation Patent system as a whole. In the mid term, this will provide valuable insights and recommendations for improvements.
In the short term, however, there is a pressing need to address emerging risks of the Innovation Patent system being used in ways which would lead to undue costs to consumers and to businesses that compete with owners of Innovation Patents. For example, there is a need to ensure that Innovation Patents do not inappropriately extend the life of pharmaceutical patents and delay the introduction of less expensive generic medicines, leading to increased costs to consumers and an increase in government expenditure through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
As a result, the Government proposes to amend the Patents Act 1990 to raise the threshold for inventiveness to the same level as for Standard Patents (Attachment A refers). This approach is consistent with the second tier patent systems operating in countries such as Germany and Japan.
Comments are requested by 25 October 2012.
You can download the consultation paper, Innovation Patents – Raising the Step (sic), via this page.