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 amendments passed

The Copyright Amendments (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill 2017 has now been passed by both Houses of Parliament.

The bulk of the amendments introduce reforms to improve access to copyright works by people with a disability to give effect to Australia’s obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty – and simplify the statutory licences for collecting societies and educational institutions.

Schedule 2 amends the term of copyright in unpublished works so that they will not remain in copyright indefinitely. The precise term will depend on when the work is first made public, what type of work it is and whether the identity of the author is generally known.

In broad terms, the term will be reduced to 70 years after the author’s death if the work is never made public. If the work was first made public before 1 January 2019, the term can still run for 70 years after the work is finally made public. If the work is first made public on or after 1 January 2019, anonymous works can still get 70 years after publication if they are first published within 50 years of being made.

Minister’s press release

Read the bill as passed and the explanatory memorandum via Parliament’s bills page.

Lid dip: Australian Copyright Council’s update service.

Alphapharm v Lundbeck per se

The Full Federal Court has dismissed yet another appeal in the Alphapharm v Lundbeck (escitalopram) saga:

You will recall that Lundbeck had applied (10 years late)[1] for an extension of the term of its escitalopram patent under s 70 of the Patents Act, escitalopram being the (+) enantiomer of citalopram.[2]

The issue in this appeal was whether escitalopram satisfied the requirement in s 70(2)(a) that:

one or more pharmaceutical substances per se must in substance be disclosed in the complete specification of the patent and in substance fall within the scope of the claim or claims of that specification

Alphapharm’s argument was that Lundbeck’s patent was a claim to a pharmaceutical substance – the isolated or pure enantiomer – but it was not a claim to a pharmaceutical substance per se. Rather, Alphapharm characterised the claim as a claim to the substance limited by a requirement of purity of manufacture.

Bennett, Nicholas and Yates JJ rejected Alphapharm’s characterisation.

Claim 1 of the escitalopram patent is to:

(+)–1-(3-dimethylaminopropyl)–1-(4’-fluorophenyl)–1,3-dihydroisobenzofuran–5-carbonitrile and non-toxic acid addition salts thereof.

Their Honours pointed out that the claim did not itself use the word “isolated” or “pure”. Nonetheless, the skilled addressee would understand the claim to be referring to the substance constituted by the isolated enantiomer, not as existing in the racemate. That substance was a new chemical entity with different characteristics and properties to the racemate.

92 …. the claim is to the (+)-enantiomer and nothing else. The term “pharmaceutical substance per se” simply means the pharmaceutical substance “in itself”. In Boehringer, Heerey J observed that per se meant ‘by or in itself’ ‘intrinsically’ or ‘essentially’ (at [7]). The Full Court approved that approach on appeal (at [37]).

93 Semantics aside, it is clear that the claim describes a pharmaceutical substance per se. The substance was, as explained by Lindgren J at [536], a new chemical entity. The racemate and the (+)-enantiomer had different physico-chemical interactions manifested in different pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics (the Decision at [234]). The claim is to (+)-citalopram, irrespective of how it is produced. The isolated (+)-enantiomer plainly qualifies as a pharmaceutical substance per se and the primary Judge was correct in concluding that it satisfies s 70(2)(a) of the Act.

It looks like things are now getting down to the sharp pointy question of how much will have to be paid in terms of pecuniary remedies. As this was an appeal from a single judge who, in turn, was hearing an appeal from the Commissioner, Alphapharm needed leave to appeal.[3] While cases granting “leave” are not quite as rare as hen’s teeth, the Full Court noted leave should be granted because:

35 This application also represents Alphapharm’s only course in challenging the extension of term of the Patent, which has significant consequences to Alphapharm. If Lundbeck is successful, the term of the Patent will be extended and Lundbeck’s infringement proceedings against Alphapharm can proceed.

Alphapharm Pty Ltd v H Lundbeck A/S [2015] FCAFC 138 (Bennett, Nicholas and Yates JJ)


  1. The High Court held that Lundbeck was not “out of time” in making its application last year.  ?
  2. Lundbeck patented the racemate citalopram in 1980 and marketed it in Australia as Cipramil. The racemate being a mixture of both the (+) and (-) enantiomers. Lundbeck marketed escitalopram as Lexapro.  ?
  3. Patents Act s 158(2).  ?

How long do you have to pay royalties for?

Vickery J in the Supreme Court of Victoria has had to construe how long an obligation to pay royalties under a sale of patents and technology and associated consultancy agreement lasts: ruling it is as long as the purchaser is using the “invention”.

Roberts came up with the “Roberts Differential Lock”. It enables the driver of a vehicle, such as a 4-wheel drive vehicle, to lock the “dif” from the cabin without having to get out and manually adjust the wheels. The invention could be retrofitted to existing vehicles. Roberts made a provisional patent application for his invention in 1983 and a standard application followed in 1984. Corresponding applications were made in the USA, the UK and Japan in 1985. Roberts and his wife marketed the Roberts Differential Lock though their company, Altair.

In 1987, the Roberts and Altair sold all their rights in the invention to ARB. There was a lump sum payment and royalties to be paid on products made using the invention. Roberts also entered into a Consultancy Agreement for an initial period of 6 months and thereafter until terminated on 30 days’ written notice.

There were two questions before Vickery J:

(1) did ARB have to keep paying roylaties after (presumably) the (1984/1984) patents expired; and

(2) if so, to whom – the Roberts or also Altair?

The terms of the sale agreement

 2. In consideration of the consideration set out in clause 7 of this Sale Agreement and subject to clause 20 hereof, the Vendors hereby jointly and severally sell transfer and assign absolutely to [ARB] all the right title and interest in and to the Roberts Differential Lock including (without limiting the generality of the foregoing) all patent applications, patent rights and proprietary rights relating thereto, and the business name ‘Roberts Diff-Lock’.

11(a). In further consideration of the rights granted hereunder the Company shall pay to the Roberts the following royalties calculated on the net invoice value arising from the sale, lease, hire and use (hereinafter referred collectively as a ‘sale’ or ‘sold’ as the case may be) of the Products by the company and its licensees:-

[a specified dollar amount for each unit sold]. (Those amounts were subject to increase according to increases in the CPI – All Groups Index – Melbourne.)

For this purpose, “Products” were defined to mean:

‘Products’ means the differentials as manufactured pursuant to the patents as specified in the First Schedule

and the First Schedule listed the 1984 Australian patent application and the pending applications in the USA, the UK and Japan – none of which had been granted at that time.

How long?

You will have noticed that clause 11(a) does not say anything about how long the obligation to pay royalties lasted. Vickery J held as a matter of construction the obligation did not end when the “patents”[1] expired. A number of factors led to his Honour’s conclusion.

First, when the sale agreement was executed, the patent terms in the different countries where applications were pending were different. Moreover, as is typical in such agreements, the definition of “patents” extended to divisonals, re-issues, continuations, continuations in part and the like. So, his Honour concluded, the parties contemplated that there would be potentially be different expiry dates in different countries.

Secondly, although the obligation to pay royalties was imposed on sales of Products, what was sold by clause 2 were “all rights in and to the Roberts Differential Lock including … the patents and the proprietary rights relating thereto”. Then “proprietary rights” were defined not just as rights in patents, but also included copyright, confidential information, trade secrets, data, formulae and so on. So ARB was not just buying rights to the patents it was buying all rights to all the technology. Moreover, under the Consultancy Agreement, “all inventions, techniques and improvements developed in the course of the consultancy agreement ‘shall become the sole and exclusive property of ARB …’”

Together, these arrangements indicated the “ambulatory nature” of the proprietary rights ARB obtained.

Thirdly, if ARB was right and its obligations extended only to the “patents”, it had no obligation to pay royalties until at least one of the pending applications was actually registered. However, Vickery J considered it quite clear the obligation to pay was intended to apply to all products ARB sold as soon as the sale took effect whether an application had proceeded to grant or not.

Finally:

109 Further, the object and purpose of the Sale Agreement may be said to be the allocation of the risks and rewards of the patent rights and the proprietary rights to be assigned to ARB by the Vendors. The risk allocation was achieved by means of the mechanism selected for determination of the price to be paid for that assignment.

110 I accept that the Vendors’ construction is commercially sensible in that it provides for an arrangement whereby each party managed its risk as to the proper price to pay (from ARB’s perspective) and to charge (from the Vendors’ perspective) in relation to the bundle of rights sold under the Sale Agreement, which at the time of entry into the contract had a value which was difficult to calculate or even estimate. Accordingly, the Sale Agreement provided for an ambulatory consideration through the royalties regime. If the rights proved to be valuable so that commercialisation of them resulted in a higher number of total sales than anticipated, then ARB would pay a higher total purchase price to the Vendors. On the other hand, if the rights proved to be valuable so that commercialisation of them resulted in a higher number of total sales than initially expected, then ARB would pay a higher total purchase price to the Vendors.

111 I also accept that such a risk-sharing arrangement is not one that had any obvious connection to the life of the patents that might be granted on the assigned patent applications, or to whether any patents became registered at all. In this regard the following is to be noted:

(a) ARB received an immediate and continuing benefit from the sales that it made using the assigned patent rights. In other words, the benefits that ARB received were not contingent upon any patent application listed in the First Schedule of the Sale Agreement proceeding to grant; and

(b) the assigned rights included proprietary rights which did not depend upon a patent proceeding to grant or remaining registered.

Vickery J then rejected ARB’s argument that it would be faced with a perpetual obligation to pay royalties: its obligation was to pay only on products that embodied the invention described in the patents. If it didn’t use that invention, it had no obligation to pay.

Pay the royalty to whom

This is one of those odd arguments where ARB was trying to contend Altair, the Roberts’ company, had no standing to sue. While cl. 11 did say that ARB had to pay “the Roberts”, Vickery J noted that the Roberts and Altair were the “Vendors” as defined and so cl. 11 should be understood as requiring payment to all three.

The conclusions reached by Vickery J, assuming there is no successful appeal, may immediately be contrasted with Maggbury Pty Ltd v Hafele Australia Pty Ltd.[2] One obvious point of difference, is that it appears that patents did actually issue in this case. Moreover, it appears that there was, or may have been, further technology of value apart from the patents – such as copyright, confidential information and further improvements.

The conclusion may also seem at odds with the policy in s 145 of the Patents Act. Even at its strongest, however, that only gives a right to terminate and does not automatically terminate the contract. As we have recently seen, however, the operation of the provision, particularly in a multi-jurisdictional context involving many faceted technologies, is less than clear.[3] In any event, ARB did not invoke the provision and it is not clear from the judgment whether there are other patent, or for that matter other “proprietary”, rights still on foot.

Nonetheless, if ARB could terminate the contract, it is an interesting question how Vickery J’s approach would sit with Maggbury if ARB used only technology now in the public domain.

Finally, as I am sure you have already concluded, if you are acting for the payor in this type of situation this case illustrates the importance of considering very carefully and providing specifically in the agreement for the duration of the obligation to pay royalties and what it is payable on if you are drawing a clause providing for a royalty – especially when the technology comes into the public domain and others may use it royalty free.

ARB Corporation v Roberts & Ors [2014] VSC 495

Lid dip: James McDougall


  1. That is, the patent applications that were pending when the sale agreement was executed.  ?
  2. (2001) 210 CLR 181.  ?
  3. MPEG LA, L.L.C. v Regency Media Pty Ltd [2014] FCA 180  ?

Another plant breeder’s rights case

This one is on a fairly narrow point: what is the term of rights where the application was made under the old (PVR) act, but registration was not completed until after the new (PBR) act.

Such matters are governed by s 83 of the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act.

Rights granted before the PBR Act commenced have a term of 20 years from acceptance (PBR Act s 82(2) and PVR Act s 32); in contrast, rights granted pursuant to applications filed after the PBR Act commenced have a term of 20 years from grant (except for trees which may have up to 25 years).

Patentology has a report.

Elders Rural Services Australia Limited v Registrar of Plant Breeder’s Rights [2012] FCAFC 14 allowing an appeal from

Elders Rural Services Australia Limited v Registrar of Plant Breeder’s Rights [2011] FCA 384

(Not) a case of PBR

Caithness applied for the grant of plant variety rights for the potato variety ‘Nadine’ on 21 May 1992.

That application was accepted by the Registrar on 28 May 1992.

On 10 November 1994, the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act 1994 came into force and repealed the Plant Variety Rights Act 1987.

On 16 August 1995, Caithness’ application for Nadine was granted and certificate 465 was issued.

Under the old Act (the PVRA), the term of a registration was 20 years from the date of acceptance; i.e. until 28 May 2012. The term of registration under the New Act, however, was 20 years from the date of grant; i.e. until 16 August 2015. Elders, Caithness’ exclusive agent for Australia, challenged the Registrar’s conclusion that the term applicable was that under the old Act.

If Nadine had actually been registered before the old Act was repealed, s 82 of the new Act meant it would have the longer term of protection (i.e., measured from the date of grant) conferred by the new Act as if it had been registered under the new Act.

Because Nadine had only been accepted when the new Act came into force, however, Lander J has ruled that it did not fall under s 82, but s 83.

Moreover, the drafting of s 83 led to the ‘unfairness’ that Nadine was only entitled to protection for the term applicable under the old Act; i.e. until 28 May 2012.

His Honour refused to apply the principle in Inco Europe Ltd v First Choice Distribution [2000] UKHL 15 and interpret s 83 as if additional words could be read into it to remedy an obvious drafting error:

85 The additional words which should be read in at the end of s 83 are said to be “save that a successful applicant will be granted PBR pursuant to the provisions of the Act”.

86 Assuming this Court had the power to do what the applicant contends, the Court should decline to exercise the power for two reasons which follow from the reasons for the construction that I have suggested. First, it would mean that an applicant who could not comply with s 44 of the new Act would have to be deemed to have complied otherwise the application would have to be refused. That would require some further words to be notionally added. Secondly, the applicant would obtain rights, being PBR, that s 82 contemplates that an old Act applicant should not be entitled. The applicant would obtain the rights which are specifically excluded in s 82(3) and (4). That would be a very odd result. It would mean that an applicant who had been granted plant variety rights under the old Act would be deemed to be entitled to PBR without the rights in s 82(3) and (4), but an applicant who had made an application under the old Act but who had not been granted any rights would become entitled to PBR including the rights under s 82(3) and (4).

87 This is not a piece of legislation which can be redrawn by the Court. The unfortunate result which the drafting error discloses is a matter for Parliament.

    Elders Rural Services Australia Limited v Registrar of Plant Breeder’s Rights [2011] FCA 384

    Patentology’s take