Productivity Commission Response No 2 – No 2

The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Productivity Commission Response Part 2 and Other Measures) Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 26 February 2020.

The Act as actually passed (with amendments) is available here (to get the text from Austlii when I went there, I had to download the RTF or plain text format). There is also now a Revised Explanatory Memorandum.

As assented to, section 2 now prescribes that the abolition of the innovation patent regime will occur 18 months after Royal Assent — 26 August 2021.

(Remember, this is achieved by specifying an additional ground for “the formalities check” in new s 52(3) – an application for an innovation patent may pass “the formalities check” only if the date of the patent would be before [26 August 2021]. There is presumably a good reason why it doesn’t just say The Commissioner must reject the application for an innovation patent if the date of the patent would be on or after [26 August 2021].)

The Revised Explanatory Memorandum explains that 18 months has been chosen to ensure that persons who have filed a provisional application or a basic application under the PCT are not prejudiced. Such a person has up to 12 months from the filing date to file a complete application in Australia and an additional 6 months has been allowed to allow them enough time to make a decision.

As you will recall both ACIP and the Productivity Commission recommended abolition of the innovation patent. The Revised Explanatory Memorandum explains that the Government has accepted those recommendations because (footnotes omitted):

The policy intention of the IPS was to encourage SMEs to innovate and benefit from their scientific progress. In practice however, the innovation patent system has been found to have limited use by SMEs as 74 per cent of SMEs and private inventors filed once and never again; 83 per cent never received an enforceable right; and 78 per cent let their innovation patent expire early rather than pay the minor cost of the renewal fee. The Productivity Commission found that the majority of SMEs who use the innovation patent system do not obtain value from it, and that the system imposes significant costs on third parties and the broader Australian community. Given this, the innovation patent system has shown to be unlikely to provide net benefits to the Australian community or to the SMEs who are the intended beneficiaries of the system.

Section 4 in the Act as passed also requires the Minister to establish a review of the accessibility of patents for small and medium enterprises within 3 months (i.e. by 26 May 2020). Matters the review should consider include:

(a) the cost of applications for patents; and

(b) processing times of patents; and

(c) advice provided by the Australian Government with respect to the patent application process; and

(d) awareness of the patent application process.

The written report from the review must be submitted to the Minister within 12 months of commencement and the Minister must table it in both Houses of Parliament within 15 sitting days of receiving the report.

In addition to these matters, the Act also:

  • introduces an objects clause into the Patents Act 1990 – Sch 1 Part 1;

The object of this Act is to provide a patent system in Australia that promotes economic wellbeing through technological innovation and the transfer and dissemination of technology. In doing so, the patent system balances over time the interests of producers, owners and users of technology and the public.

  • revises the Crown use provisions in both the Patents Act and the Designs Act – Sch 2 & 3;
  • amends the compulsory licence provisions for patents to be based on a “public interest” test rather than a failure to meet the reasonable requirements of the public in Australia – Sch 4;
  • provides for electronic seals in the Patents and Trade Marks Offices – Sch 5;
  • permits objection to ‘omnibus claims’ to be raised at opposition, re-examination and revocation stages as well as examination – Sch 6;
  • permits the Commissioner of Patents to redact information (i.e. parts of documents) as well as documents where confidentiality requires it – Sch 7; and
  • amends the circumstances a translation of a patent application originally in a foreign language will require a certificate of verification – Sch 8.

All the amendments commenced on 27 February 2020 except for the abolition of innovation patents and Sch 8. The timing of the abolition of innovation patents has been discussed above. Sch. 9 commences on 26 August 2020.

IP Amendment (Productivity Commission Part 1 …) Bill – exposure draft

IP Australia has released an exposure draft bill and regulations to implement some of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations from its Intellectual Property Arrangements report. Intended to be the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Productivity Commission Response Part 1 and Other Measures) Bill 2017.[1]

According to the news release, the amendments will:

  • commence the abolition of the innovation patent system (PC recommendation 8.1)
  • expand the scope of essentially derived variety declarations in the Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) Act (PC recommendation 13.1)
  • reduce the grace period for filing non-use applications under the Trade Marks Act (PC recommendation 12.1(a))
  • clarify the circumstances in which the parallel importation of trade marked goods does not infringe a registered trade mark (PC recommendation 12.1(c))
  • repeal section 76A of the Patents Act, which requires patentees to provide certain data relating to pharmaceutical patents with an extended term (PC recommendation 10.1)
  • allow PBR exclusive licensees to take infringement actions
  • allow for the award of additional damages, under the PBR Act
  • include measures intended to streamline a number of processes for the IP rights that IP Australia administers,

and everyone’s favourite “a number of technical amendments”.

On the parallel imports front, the bill would introduce a new s 122A to replace s 123(1) with the object of overruling the Federal Court’s case law severely restricting the legality of “parallel imports” since the 1995 Act came into force. It’s a “doozy”.

For example, it attempts to reverse the onus of proof that the courts have imposed on parallel importers by providing that

at the time of use, it was reasonable for the [parallel importer] to assume the trade mark had been applied to, or in relation to, the goods by, or with the consent of, a person who was, at the time of the application or consent (as the case may be):

(i) the registered owner of the trade mark; or

(ii) an authorised user of the trade mark; or

(iii) a person authorised to use the trade mark by a person mentioned in subparagraph (i) or (ii), or with significant influence over the use of the trade mark by such a person; or

(iv) an associated entity (within the meaning of the Corporations Act 2001) of a person mentioned in subparagraph (i), (ii) or (iii).

 

I suppose “reasonable to assume” does at least require some objective support for the “assumption”.

The second part – (iii) and (iv) above – is trying to deal with the situation where the registered owner assigns the trade mark to someone in Australia, but with the capability of calling for a re-assignment.[2]

This will require considerable flexibility by the Courts in interpreting “significant influence”.

If you have made such and assignment, or your client has, you had better start re-assessing your commercial strategy, however. The transitional arrangements say the amendment will apply to any infringement actions brought after the section commences. Moreover, this will be the case even if the “infringing act” took place before the commencement date.

Comments should be submitted by 4 December 2017.

Exposure draft bill

Exposure draft EM

Exposure draft regulations

Exposure draft explanatory statement


  1. Seems like the “short title” of bills are reverting to the old form “long” titles!  ?
  2. For example, Transport Tyre Sales Pty Ltd v Montana Tyres Rims & Tubes Pty Ltd [1999] FCA 329.  ?