Productivity Commission Response No 2

Parliament has now passed the wonderfully named Intellectual Property Law Amendment (Productivity Commission Response Part 2 and Other Measures) Bill 2019. Text here[1] and EM here.

When enacted, the “Act” will amongst other things:

(a) insert an objects clause, new section 2A, into the Patents Act:

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.

That clears things up nicely doesn’t it?

(b) suppress the granting of more “innovation” patents;

(c) harmonise the regimes for Crown use of patents and registered designs;

(d) introduces a revised regime for compulsory licensing of patents.

The suffocation of innovation patents will be achieved by introducing new sub-section 52(3) into the Patents Act.

Sub-section 52(3) will make it a requirement of the formalities check that the date of the patent (if granted) must be a date before the date the amendment came into force.

According to the form of the “Act” on Parliament’s website sub-section 52(3) will come into force 12 months after the “Act” receives Royal Assent.[2]

Once the sub-section comes into force, therefore, it will be possible to seek further innovation patents only where they are based on filings with a date before the commencement date so, for example, a divisional application.


  1. The bill does not become an Act until it receives the Royal Assent.  ?
  2. There had been reports that the phase out period would be extended to 18 months, but that does not appear to be reflected in the document on Parliament’s website. These reports also indicated that there was to be a review of the impact of “abolition” on Australian small and medium enterprises.  ?

PC Implementation 1 Bill To Be Passed

The Senate’s Economics committee has unanimously recommended that the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Productivity Commission Response Part 1 and Other Measures) Bill 2018 be passed.

The Committee received submissions only on the proposed reform of the parallel import provision for trade marks – clause 122A – and issues relating to plant breeder’s rights.

The Committee considered no changes were required. In relation to the parallel imports question and the concerns that the defence of “reasonable inquiries” will lead to a pirate’s charter, the Committee said:

The committee notes that key parts of the bill originate from recommendations made by independent reviews, and that the provisions of the bill have been subject to extensive consultation. In particular, the committee commends IP Australia for its thoughtful response to the public consultation on the exposure draft of the bill which ultimately led to provisions of the bill being altered in important aspects.

and went on to find the test in the legislation appropriate.

Perhaps most alarmingly, the Committee started its analysis at paragraph 1.6 by endorsing the key points advanced by the Productivity Commission:

• Australia’s IP arrangements fall short in many ways and improvement is
needed across the spectrum of IP rights.

• IP arrangements need to ensure that creators and inventors are rewarded for
their efforts.

• Australia’s patent system grants exclusivity too readily, allowing a
proliferation of low-quality patents, frustrating follow-on innovators and
stymieing competition.

• Copyright is broader in scope and longer in duration than needed—innovative
firms, universities and schools, and consumers bear the cost.

• Timely and cost effective access to copyright content is the best way to reduce
infringement.

• Commercial transactions involving IP rights should be subject to competition
law.

• While Australia’s enforcement system works relatively well, reform is needed
to improve access, especially for small and medium sized enterprises.

• The absence of an overarching objective, policy framework and reform
champion has contributed to Australia losing its way on IP policy.

• International commitments substantially constrain Australia’s IP policy
flexibility.

• Reform efforts have more often than not succumbed to misinformation and
scare campaigns. Steely resolve will be needed to pursue better balanced IP
arrangements.

As the Committee acknowledged at 1.7, even the Government’s response did not go that far!

Senate Economics Legislation Committee Intellectual Property Laws Amendment
(Productivity Commission Response Part 1 and Other Measures) Bill 2018 [Provisions]
June 2018

IP Laws Amendment ( Productivity Commission Response Pt 1 etc) Bill 2018

On May 10, the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Productivity Commission Response Part 1 and Other Measures) Bill 2018 was referred to the Senate’s Economics Legislation Committee.

You may recall that, amongst other things, the Bill has another go at parallel imports and trade marks (which also entails repealing s 198A of the Copyright Act 1968), reduces the period before registered trade marks can be attacked for non-use, permits non-PBR-protected varieties to be declared as essentially derived varieties and a host of other reforms (Sch. 2 has 21 Parts)

The Senate committee is required to report on the bill by 22 June 2018.

If you are an agricultural organisation, medical research industry, an IP peak body (who is not going to INTA) or somehow at a loose end, you need to get your skates on as submissions must be made by 1 June 2018.

Productivity Commission intellectual property arrangements

Part 1 of my article on the Productivity Commission’s Final Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements has been belatedly published in the Australian Intellectual Property Law Bulletin: (2018) Vol. 30 No. 10 p. 210.

Subscription only, I’m afraid.

This part looks at the Productivity Commission’s approach and treatment of patents. Part 2 will deal with copyright, designs and other issues.

This issue of AIPLB also includes a paper by Richard Hamer and Lev Gutkin on patents law in 2016 and Marina Olsen’s review of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations on designs.

Between writing the paper and its publication, the Government has published its response to the Productivity Commission’s report. Despite the Raising the Bar reforms to inventive step, that response included acceptance of the recommendation to change the inventive step requirement yet again. The Government has since published several discussion papers on ways to “reform” inventive step and the requirement for disclosure of the technical advance, a statement of objects and Crown use.

Canada’s IP and antitrust enforcement guidelines

The Canadian Competition Bureau has published updated guidelines relating to the enforcement of intellectual property rights and the antitrust (competition) rules.

The Bureau does not presume that the exercise of IP rights violates competition rules but, in assessing whether there are competition law ramifications, it distinguishes between two types of conduct: conduct “involving something more than the mere exercise of the IP right, and those involving the mere exercise of the IP right and nothing else.” Special rules, which may be applied in “very rare circumstances” apply to the latter. While the general competition rules apply to the former.

According to the Canadian firm, Tories, the updated guidelines include consideration relating to:

  • patent litigation settlement arrangements including reverse payment settlements
  • product switching
  • patent assertion entities
  • standard essential patents

Why should someone in Australia care?

For one thing (bearing in mind the ACCC’s challenge to Pfizer’s practices when its Lipitor patent was expiring – judgment is reserved in the appeal), the US Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision this year on how US antitrust laws apply to reverse payment settlements.

For another thing, following the Competition Review here in Australia:

  • the Government announced its intention to implement the Harper Review’s recommendation that s 51(3) be repealed and, if that happens, the ACCC is supposed to produce its own guidelines; and
  • in the meantime, at the Government’s direction, the Productivity Commission is undertaking a review of Intellectual Property Arrangements including its alleged anti-competitive effects.[1]

Lid dip: Peter Willis

  1. The draft report is due to published “any day now”.  ?

Harper Review: Government Response

Yesterday (November 24), the Government published its response to the Competition (Harper) Review.

According to the response, “Harper” made 5556 recommendations; the Government has accepted 39 of them in full, 5 in part and the remainder are still under advisement.

In the intellectual property field, the item receiving most press (here and here) is the Government’s acceptance of the recommendation to remove all remaining restrictions on parallel importing books. At the moment,[1] the importation of a genuine book published first in Australia or within 30 days of first publication overseas may be blocked provided the copyright owner complies with the convoluted regime to supply copies in response to an order. This guarantees availability, but still leaves the copyright owner free to set the price it charges the person placing the order.

Harper recommended:

Restrictions on parallel imports should be removed unless it can be shown that:

• the benefits of the restrictions to the community as a whole outweigh the costs; and

• the objectives of the restrictions can only be achieved by restricting competition.

Consistent with the recommendations of recent Productivity Commission reviews, parallel import restrictions on books and second?hand cars should be removed, subject to transitional arrangements as recommended by the Productivity Commission.

Remaining provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 that restrict parallel imports, and the parallel importation defence under the Trade Marks Act 1995, should be reviewed by an independent body, such as the Productivity Commission.

What the Government plans:

The Government supports the removal of parallel import restrictions on books. The Government will progress this recommendation following the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Australia’s intellectual property arrangements (see Recommendations 6 above) and consultations with the sector on transitional arrangements.

The terms of reference for the inquiry provide that the Productivity Commission is to have regard to the findings and recommendations of the Harper Review in the context of the Government’s response, including recommendations related to parallel import restrictions in the Copyright Act 1968 and the parallel importation defence under the Trade Marks Act 1995.[2]

Harper’s recommendation 6 was a reference to the Productivity Commission to undertake a 12 month long “overarching review of intellectual property” focusing on

competition policy issues in intellectual property arising from new developments in technology and markets; and the principles underpinning the inclusion of intellectual property provisions in international trade agreements.

The Government response notes that in August it had already made this reference to the Productivity Commission.[3] The response on this point is curiously even-handed. The Productivty Commission:

is to have regard to Australia’s international arrangements, including obligations accepted under bilateral, multilateral and regional trade agreements to which Australia is a party. The global economy and technology are changing and there have been increases in the scope and duration of intellectual property protection. Excessive intellectual property protection can result in higher costs for Australian businesses and consumers and inhibit innovation. However, weak intellectual property protection can lead to under?investment in research and development (R&D) which also stifles innovation. A comprehensive evaluation of Australia’s intellectual property framework is needed to ensure that the appropriate balance exists between incentives for innovation and investment and the interests of both individuals and businesses, including small businesses, in accessing ideas and products. (emphasis supplied)

However, an independent inquiry into the processes for negotiating intellectual property provisions in treaties is not necessary: there are already robust processes in place and publishing an independent cost benefit analysis before the negotiations have concluded might tip our hand in the negotiations.

Section 51(3) gained a slight reprieve. Harper’s recommendation 7 was that it be repealed (and a new power for the ACCC to create block exemptions be introduced). Despite Prof. Harper’s injunctions that this is old news and we should just, er, do it, the Government thinks it should wait and see what the Productivity Commission says. Anyone betting the Productivity Commission won’t recommend …?

The Government also supports conferring a power to grant block exemptions on the ACCC:

A block exemption removes the need to make individual applications for exemption. The exemption is granted if the competition regulator considers that certain conditions are satisfied: either that the category of conduct is unlikely to damage competition; or that the conduct is likely to generate a net public benefit.

A block exemption power that supplements the existing authorisation and notification frameworks will be helpful in establishing ‘safe harbours’ for business. Block exemptions will reduce compliance costs and provide further certainty about the application of the CCA. They are an efficient way to deal with certain types of business conduct that are unlikely to raise competition concerns, either because of the parties engaged in the conduct or the nature of the conduct itself.

So, in the interests of promoting competition, we are going to introduce a European-style power for the regulator to design the marketplace.


  1. Copyright Act s 44A.  ?
  2. The Government also said it would not proceed with the recommendation about second hand cars, in the interests of consumer protection and community safety.  ?
  3. Indeed, you should already be putting the finishing touches on your submissions in response to the Issue Paper since they are due on Monday!  ?

Productivity Commission to review all IP laws

The Harper Review[1] recommended that the Government should direct the Productivity Commission to undertake an overarching review Australia’s IP laws.

The Treasurer and the Minister for Small Business have now announced that review.

According to the Harper Review:

an appropriate balance must be struck between encouraging widespread adoption of new productivity-enhancing techniques, processes and systems on the one hand, and fostering ideas and innovation on the other. Excessive IP protection can not only discourage adoption of new technologies but also stifle innovation.

Given the influence of Australia’s IP rights on facilitating (or inhibiting) innovation, competition and trade, the Panel believes the IP system should be designed to operate in the best interests of Australians.

The Panel therefore considers that Australia’s IP rights regime is a priority area for review. (emphasis supplied)

In reaching that view, the Harper Review flagged concern about entering into new treaties with extended IP protections.

The terms of reference state:

In undertaking the inquiry the Commission should:

  1. examine the effect of the scope and duration of protection afforded by Australia’s intellectual property system on:

    a. research and innovation, including freedom to build on existing innovation;

    b. access to and cost of goods and services; and competition, trade and investment.

  2. recommend changes to the current system that would improve the overall wellbeing of Australian society, which take account of Australia’s international trade obligations, including changes that would:

    a. encourage creativity, investment and new innovation by individuals, businesses and through collaboration while not unduly restricting access to technologies and creative works;

    b. allow access to an increased range of quality and value goods and services;

    c. provide greater certainty to individuals and businesses as to whether they are likely to infringe the intellectual property rights of others; and

    d. reduce the compliance and administrative costs associated with intellectual property rules.

Then follows a catalogue of 9 matters for the Commission to have regard to. These include the Government’s desire to retain appropriate incentives for innovation, the economy-wide and distributional consequences of recommendation and the Harper Review’s recommendations in relation to parallel imports.[2]

The Commission must report within 12 months.


  1. The Competition Policy Review, recommendation 6.  ?
  2. Rec. 13 and section 10.6 of the Competition Policy Review: i.e., repeal any remaining restrictions unless the benefits outweigh the costs and the objectives of the restrictions can only be achieved by restricting competition. Cue diatribe about “restricting competition” especially given the oft mouthed formula that IP rights rarely (if ever) restrict competition.  ?

ACIP Final Designs Report

ACIP’s final report into its review of the Designs System has been published.

The report is 70 pages (including annexes) – 43 pages for the report itself; and 23 recommendations. Key recommendations include:

  • investigate joining the Hague system and, if a decision is made to join, extend the maximum term of design protection to 15 years;
  • introduce a grace period of 6 months before the filing date, but require an applicant relying on it to file a declaration to that effect;
  • rename a registered design that has not been certified as an “uncertified design”;
  • require a registered design owner to request examination by the first renewal deadline (i.e. 5 years);
  • introduce a system of opposition following certification;
  • improve the process for multiple designs by reducing fees in line with the ALRC’s original proposal;
  • allow fiddling with the statement of newness and distinctiveness until certification;
  • fix up a range of anomalies;
  • specifically include the role of the designs system in any broader review of Australia’s IP framework such as that contemplated by the Competition Policy Review;
  • not introducing an unregistered design right.

Compulsory Licensing of Patents – Productivity Commission

The Productivity Commission’s report on Compulsory Licensing of Patents has been published.

One key recommendation is to replace the compulsory licence provisions in the s 133 of the Patents Act with a compulsory licence regime in the Competition and Consumer Act:

The Australian Government should seek to remove s. 133(2)(b) from the Patents Act 1990 (Cwlth), so that a compulsory licence order based on restrictive trade practices of the patent holder is only available under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cwlth). The remedy provisions in the Competition and Consumer Act should be amended to explicitly recognise compulsory licence orders to exploit a patented invention as a remedy under the Act.

The Productivity Commission also recommends that the “reasonable requirements of the public” test in s 135 of the Patents Act be replaced with a “public interest” test:

The Australian Government should seek to amend the Patents Act 1990 (Cwlth) to replace the ‘reasonable requirements of the public’ test for a compulsory licence with a new public interest test. The new test should specify that a compulsory licence to exploit the patented invention would be available if the following conditions are met:

  • Australian demand for a product or service is not being met on reasonable terms, and access to the patented invention is essential for meeting this demand.
  • The applicant has tried for a reasonable period, but without success, to obtain access from the patentee on reasonable terms and conditions.
  • There is a substantial public interest in providing access to the applicant, having regard to:
    • –  benefits to the community from meeting the relevant unmet demand
    • –  commercial costs and benefits to the patent holder and licensee from

      granting access to the patented invention

    • –  other impacts on community wellbeing, including those resulting from greater competition and from the overall effect on innovation.

Section 136 should be repealed and future Treaty obligations should be incorporated into the Patents Act directly.

The Productivity Commission would also like to see s 51(3) of the CC Act repealed:

but any changes to s.51(3) will need to be based on a consideration of the implications for all types of intellectual property, including those beyond this inquiry’s terms of reference.

Further recommendations relate to Crown Use,which appear to have been largely adopted already in the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2013.

Download Full Report, or interesting chapters, here.

Pharmaceutical Patents Review

The Commonwealth Government’s Pharmaceutical Patents Review has published a draft report.

The draft Report is some 200 or so pages long; contains 4 draft findings and 15 draft recommendations (although recommendation 5 relating to the extension of term regime proposes 2 different alternatives).

There appears to be considerable, fascinating data reported. The scope and detail of the draft report will plainly require much further consideration.

At the policy level, the draft report considers there has been a significant failure of co-ordination between the various regulatory bodies that deal with issues relating to pharmaceuticals and patent protections:

Draft recommendation 10.1: The Government should establish a non-statutory Pharmaceutical System Coordinating Committee (PSCC) that reports to Parliament on an annual basis on the success and effectiveness of the patent, marketing approval and PBS systems, particularly where these interface. The PSCC should ensure there is sufficient engagement and coordination between the relevant agencies and take account of costs to government, efficiency of registration and approval processes and respond to issues raised by industry. The PSCC should comprise senior officials from at least DIICCSRTE, IP Australia, DoHA (Pharmaceutical Benefits Division and TGA), DFAT, Finance and Treasury (as chair).

This appears to reflect a general concern with the need for greater policy and practical concern throughout the report. See e.g. draft recommendation 7.2 (calling for an external (to IP Australia) patent oversight committee) and draft recommendation 3.2.

Recommendation 6.1 proposes retaining extension of term just for pharmaceutical products and not extending it to methods of use or manufacture. The bipolar recommendations 5.1 and 5.2, however, explore different ways of prescribing the term of the extension.

Other topics addressed in the draft report include: the impact of international agreements on Australia’s welfare, evergreening and follow-on patents, data protection

Comments on the draft report are required to be submitted by 30 April 2013.