IP Australia (i.e. Australia’s Patent, Designs, Trade Marks and PBR Office) recently released further details of its upcoming Indigenous Knowledge Project, including a Work Plan for 2020-2021.
The Work Plan outlines several proposed initiatives for greater protection of indigenous knowledge and indigenous cultural expressions.
Perhaps most immediately, IP Australia has forecast upcoming consultations on proposed initiatives as follows:
Measures to prevent registration of trade marks and designs using Indigenous Knowledge without consent or if offensive to Indigenous people
IP Australia is presumably seeking to implement measures which correspond to those already in place under New Zealand law, in which trade mark applications which appear to contain a Māori element are assessed by a Māori Trade Marks Advisory Committee to confirm whether the relevant trade mark contains an element which would be considered offensive to a significant number of Māori people.
Indigenous Advisory Panel
In this respect, IP Australia similarly proposes to establish an Indigenous Advisory Panel which, it would appear, would undertake a corresponding role to that of Māori Trade Marks Advisory Committee.
Requirement for disclosure of source material for genetic resources and traditional knowledge in patent and PBR applications
As acknowledged by IP Australia, there is no requirement in the patent or PBR system for applications to include details genetic resources or traditional knowledge used to develop an invention or plant variety. This in turn, renders it difficult for the traditional custodians of particular resources or knowledge to benefit from, or otherwise prevent, commercialisation derived from those resources or knowledge.
At this stage, IP Australia proposes that patent and PBR legislation could be amended to require that a patent or PBR application include disclosure of the source of genetic resource or traditional knowledge.
These very progressive initiatives will be of particular interest to those seeking to file patent applications in the biotechnology areas in Australia, where filing and disclosure requirements additional to those of other jurisdictions may become necessary.
In the meantime, those interested in this topics may keep updated by subscribing an IP Australia emailing list located in our link.
We at FAL Lawyers believe the opportunity to consider these matters for protecting indigenous culture and traditional knowledge is most welcome, particularly given the breadth and history of indigenous knowledge and culture found right here in Australia, which is in our view very worthy of protection.