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Loosening the IP Red Tape: Streamlining Australian IP Law through the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2015

The law surrounding intellectual property has long been criticised as being overly complex and inefficient. On 9 February 2015, the Australian Senate passed the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2014 (2014 Bill) which simplifies intellectual property rights.

The content of the Bill largely mirrors its predecessor Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2013 (2013 Bill) which was not passed before the 2013 Federal election. However, there are five key changes which are addressed below.

The Consolation Paper[1] states that “[t]he Bill will amend the Patents Act 1990, Trade Marks Act 1995, Designs Act 2003, and the Plant Breeder's Rights Act 1994 in order to:

  • implement the Protocol amending the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS Protocol), enabling Australian medicine producers to manufacture and export patented pharmaceuticals to countries experiencing health crises, under a compulsory licence from the Federal Court;
  • extend the jurisdiction of the former Federal Magistrates Court, the Federal Circuit Court, to include plant breeder's rights matters;
  • allow for a single trans-Tasman patent attorney regime and single patent application and examination processes for Australia and New Zealand, as part of the broader Single Economic Market (SEM) agenda;
  • make minor administrative changes to the Patents, Trade Marks and Designs Acts to repeal unnecessary document retention provisions that are already adequately governed by the Archives Act 1983; and
  • make minor technical amendments to the Patents Act to correct oversights in the drafting of the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Act 2012 which was passed by Parliament in March 2012.”

Some of the immediate benefits are that the new legislation will strengthen business ties between Australia and New Zealand as it will make the patenting process identical in both countries and additionally, plant breeders will have a cost-effective means for protecting their rights in the Federal Circuit Court.[2]

The 2014 Bill will come into effect as a fully-fledged Act in the coming days.

Peter Francis and Amanda Ly  

12 February 2015

[1] IP Australia, ‘Public Consultation: Draft Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2014’ (January 2014) IP Australia <http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/pdfs/2014-01-13_Consultation_Paper.pdf>.

[2] Hon Karen Andrews, ‘Less IP red tape for Australian business – more help for countries in need’  (10 February 2015) Department of Industry  <http://www.minister.industry.gov.au/ministers/andrews/media-releases/less-ip-red-tape-australian-business-%E2%80%93-more-help-countries-need>.