The Hague Agreement: a cost benefit analysis

IP Australia has published a cost benefit analysis for Australia joining the Hague Agreement for registration of designs.

You are no doubt thinking that sounds very exciting (not). But, even if you are not into registered designs, you SHOULD READ IT. This is the Government’s first attempt at applying the Productivity Commission’s call for any proposals to reform intellectual property laws to be economically justified. As the Report says in the first paragraph of the Executive Summary:

The report assesses the impacts [i.e., the costs and benefits to Australia of joining the Hague Agreement] with reference to the Productivity Commission’s (PC) guiding principles of effectiveness, efficiency, adaptability and accountability. This report is intended to form part of the evidence base in relation to whether Australia should join the Hague Agreement.

So, unless it involves an acronym that is like TPP, this could well be a harbinger of things to come.

And what does it conclude find:

  • IP Australia’s best estimate of the net benefit for Australian designers is $1.7 million;[1]
  • IP Australia’s best estimate of the net cost to Australian consumers from higher prices resulting from the longer term of design protection is $58 million;[2]
  • to add a little bit more spice to the debate, IP Australia’s best estimate of the net cost to Australian IP professionals is $2.5 million;[3] and
  • IP Australia’s best estimate of the net cost to the Australian government of implementing new systems etc. to comply with Hague is $2.8 million.[4]

The big question IP Australia is asking you is how realistic are these estimates?

Now, in arriving at these numbers, the Report does include quite a lot of hard data.
For example, most Australians who file designs overseas do so in the EU, the USA, NZ and China. On the other side of the coin, most incoming design registrations were from the USA, the EU, Japan, NZ, Switzerland and China.[5]

On the other hand, the Productivity Commission reported that less than 20% of registered designs are renewed beyond the first 5 year term.[6] According to IP Australia, however, approximately half of all design registrations are renewed for the second 5 year term and non-residents are more likely to renew than Australians.[7]

Will we become better at designing if we “stick” with our current settings – 19th out of the top 40[8] – or should we “twist” and sign up? Of course, there is an anterior question: do we even care about good design in the first place?

IP Australia is seeking feedback on its cost-benefit analysis and its proposed methodology to elicit additional evidence and views with the aim of finalising the analysis in 2018. You should get your say in by 31 May 2018.

The Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs: A cost-benefit analysis for Australia March 2018


  1. This represents the costs savings from the simplified application procedure and the increased profits from taking new designs overseas. IP Australia estimates the range of benefit is from $0.03 million to $6 million.  ?
  2. This represents how much Australian consumers would pay to overseas owners of registered designs if the term of a registered design was extended from 10 years (currently) to the minimum 15 years required under Hague. IP Australia estimates a resulting range of net outflows from $23 million to $114 million.  ?
  3. IP Australia anticipates that “IP professionals” will garner some extra work at the examination stage but will lose work at the filing stage as the Hague Agreement provides for one central application to WIPO rather than multiple individual application to each separate jurisdiction. IP Australia estimates a range from a benefit of $0.3 million to a cost of $12 million.  ?
  4. The Government (presumably that means IP Australia) will incur costs between $2.3 and $3.4 million in upgrading its IT systems.  ?
  5. Report p. 10. It’s not clear from this part of the Report whether Australian applicants filed in all, some or only one of those destinations.  ?
  6. Productivity Commission, Intellectual Property Arrangements: Final Report, p. 337. These were the figures from ACIP as at 2013.  ?
  7. Report p. 11. In 2010, 66% of non-residents renewed. How the discrepancy between the Productivity Commission’s figures (i.e.,
    ACIP’s figures) came about is not clear.  ?
  8. Report Appendix 3 table 4.1.  ?

Copyright modernisation downunder – a consultation paper

The Australian government has issued a consultation paper on copyright modernisation: Copyright modernisation consultation paper.

The three main issues on which consultations are being undertaken are:

  1. flexible exceptions
  2. contracting out of exceptions; and
  3. access to orphan works.

The consultation paper arises from the Government’s response to the Productivity Commission’s final report into Intellectual Property Arrangements indicating that these matters required further consideration.

Following the Productivity Commission’s report, the consultation paper sets out an interesting framework for considering how to approach these matters. According to the consultation paper, the proposals “recognise copyright’s role as part of a wider intellectual property system that is:

  • effective—The system should be effective in encouraging additional ideas and in providing incentives that ensure knowledge is disseminated through the economy and community.
  • efficient—The system should provide incentives for IP to be created at the lowest cost to society.
  • adaptable—The system should adapt to changes in economic conditions, technology, markets and costs of innovating.
  • accountable—The policies and institutions that govern the system, and the way that changes are made to them, need to be evidence-based, transparent, and reflect community values.” [1]

The consultation paper proposes seven questions:

Flexible exceptions

Question 1
To what extent do you support introducing:
• additional fair dealing exceptions? What additional purposes should be introduced and what factors should be considered in determining fairness?
• a ‘fair use’ exception? What illustrative purposes should be included and what factors should be considered in determining fairness?

Question 2
What related changes, if any, to other copyright exceptions do you feel are necessary? For example, consider changes to:
• section 200AB
• specific exceptions relating to galleries, libraries, archives and museums.

Contracting out of exceptions

Question 3
Which current and proposed copyright exceptions should be protected against contracting out?

Question 4
To what extent do you support amending the Copyright Act to make unenforceable contracting out of:
• only prescribed purpose copyright exceptions?
• all copyright exceptions?

Access to orphan works

Question 5
To what extent do you support each option and why?
• statutory exception
• limitation of remedies
• a combination of the above.

Question 6
In terms of limitation of remedies for the use of orphan works, what do you consider is the best way to limit liability? Suggested options include:
• restricting liability to a right to injunctive relief and reasonable compensation in lieu of damages (such as for non-commercial uses)
• capping liability to a standard commercial licence fee
• allowing for an account of profits for commercial use.

Question 7
Do you support a separate approach for collecting and cultural institutions, including a direct exception or other mechanism to legalise the non-commercial use of orphaned material by this sector?

In a final section of the consultation paper, a number of “ongoing concerns raised by federal cultural and collecting institutions”[2] are identified for consultation. Apparently, these “arts portfolio agencies” are concerned that copyright is being used to inhibit their ability to “provide broad-based access to their collections”. The consultation paper explains:

This includes concerns over exceptions being tied to an institution’s physical location, and thus preventing offsite supply of material. At other times, exceptions permit digitisation of content but not providing digitised content to users. Some arts portfolio agencies expend a disproportionate effort on copyright due diligence, especially when identifying and locating authors of works. This can discourage institutions from digitising, promoting or providing access to their collections. As a result, copyright law may inhibit them from adopting modern cultural institution practices and engaging with Australians online. The Department notes that, at least in some cases, better online access would involve non-commercial use or the use of copyright material with low commercial significance.

Accordingly, the consultation paper questions whether the Copyright Act 1968 should be amended by:

  • adding a fair dealing exception for libraries and archives, which may provide scope for ‘off-site access’ to be provided to those wishing to use and access certain digitised collections;
  • expanding the scope of the current fair dealing exception for ‘research or study’ to include situations where a person has a family connection to the work;
  • refining the current s 200AB flexible exception for libraries and archives, including by removing existing restrictions on the provision only applying to ‘special cases’ and where another provision of the Copyright Act could not otherwise be relied on;
  • broadening the range of libraries to which document supply provisions can apply to libraries outside Australia—this would accommodate the prevalence of overseas Australians seeking access to library material.

Submissions should be provided to the Department of Communications and the Arts by 5pm on 4 June 2018.


  1. Productivity Commission, Intellectual Property Arrangements – Final Report p. 61ff.  ?
  2. These include the National Library of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Museum of Australian Democracy and the Bundanon Trust. The consultation paper does point out, in addition, that there are many state and territory institutions of similar nature which may well have similar concerns.  ?

Designs Act 2003 review

In May 2012, ACIP was directed to investigate the effectiveness of the Designs Act 2003 which commenced operation on 17 June 2004.

Now ACIP has published an issues paper.

Chapter 3 sets out 22 questions ACIP is seeking answers to. However, ACIP does also say:

the main purpose of the paper is to provoke discussion and any other relevant comments are very welcome.

The topics identified (so far) for comment include:

  • Duration of design protection
  • Grace period
  • Statement of Newness and Distinctiveness
  • Publication
  • Unregistered Designs Rights (UDRs)
  • Harmonisation with international practices (i.e. The Hague Agreement)
  • Border Protection Measures
  • Design overlap with other IP rights
  • Threshold of registrability
  • Confusion regarding the registration/publication/examination process;
  • The (potential) impact of new technologies, such as 3D printing technologies and graphical user interfaces.

There are some interesting statistics:

  • about 6,000 design applications filed each year (the Germans do 50,000+ a year, the Chinese are a whole order of magnitude bigger)
  • 90% proceed to registration (wonder how the other 10% manage to stuff up filling in the form?)
  • 20% of registrations have examination requested (so you can sue someone for infringement or try and revoke them)
  • 10% of those examined fail (i.e., 90% get certified)

Table 4 sets out the classes in which most applications are being made and Table 5 outs those who file the most applications.

The closing date for submissions is 31 October 2013.

Download the issues paper from here (pdf).

Lid dip: Janice Luck

ACIP reviews innovation patents

On 28 February, the Minister directed ACIP to report on the innovation patent system.

On 17 August, ACIP published an issues paper (pdf) and now seeks your comments by 14 October 2011.

According to the announcement of the issue paper’s release:

In recent years a variety of concerns have been raised about the innovation patent system and whether it is meeting its original objectives. A key concern is that an innovation patent is overly difficult to invalidate and the remedies for infringement are overly generous. Another concern is that innovation patents are being used to obtain a form of quick protection for higher level inventions while a standard patent is being pursued. Also, the innovation patent system has never been reviewed to assess whether it remains effective and appropriate for Australia now and in the future.

Innovation patents (which are not for business schemes) are difficult to invalidate after Dura-Post? The Full Court confirmed that the test of ‘innovative step’ does not involve a sort of obviousness penumbra over common general knowledge. Rather, the patent is innovative unless it can be shown that the difference between the patent and the prior art do not make a substantial contribution to the working of the ‘invention’. This was apparently derived from Griffin v Isaacs. As the trial judge explained with the apparent approval of Kenny and Stone JJ at [70] and [79]:

Be that as it may, the feature of what Dixon J said was the disjunctive nature of the concepts – one was ‘make no substantial contribution to the working of the thing’; the other was ‘involve no ingenuity or inventive step’. The first alternative has been taken by Parliament virtually verbatim from the judgment. The focus is upon working of the invention (as claimed) not to the degree or kind of variation from the kinds of information set out in s 7(5). In other words, the variation from the kinds of information might be slight but, if a substantial contribution is made to the working of the invention, then there is an innovative step. … In my view the provenance of the phrase ‘make no substantial contribution to the working of the invention’ indicates that ‘substantial’ in this context means ‘real’ or ‘of substance’ as contrasted with distinctions without a real difference.

Rather than a modified inventive step test, it is a modified novelty test.

The Issues Paper runs to some 28 pages.

Interestingly, just over 11,000 innovation patents have been granted and 1,790 certified.Over 80% are to Australian inventors and around half are to Australian individuals as opposed to corporations (the proportion of certifications falls to 41%). The proportion of Australian grantees vs foreign appears to be falling over time.

1,011 of the grants are divisionals from applications for standard patents. For the first few years, that was about 5% of all divisional applications, but it has been at least 10% since 2006 with a couple of years getting closer to 14%. This leads to concerns that innovation patents are being used to get ‘quick’ rights.

There are also concerns that the pharmaceutical industry is using the system to ‘evergreen’ its patent portfolios.

The questions (although ACIP would like to take this opportunity to provoke discussion generally):

  1. Effectiveness in stimulating innovation
  2. Does Australia need a utility model?
  3. Does it cost too much?
  4. Is the cost of certification dissuading people from seeking certification?
  5. How do (people in) other jurisdictions jurisdictions perceive the innovation patent?
  6. Are there concerns about the uncertainty arising from the delays in getting certification?
  7. Are the current remedies appropriate?
  8. If the available remedies are reduced (e.g. you couldn’t get an injunction) would costs of (getting) an innovation patent be justified?
  9. How do you think the use of divisionals is working (and why did you do it)?

ACIP announcement

Issues paper (pdf)