04 June, 2013

IP Laws Amendment Bill 2013

A new Bill was recently introduced to the Australian Parliament, dubbed the "IP Laws Amendments Bill 2013". The aim of the Bill would be to amend current legislation pertaining to patents and plant breeder's rights, and to introduce some changes to the all-new Intellectual Property Amendments (Raising The Bar) Act 2012 (discussed on this blog some time ago).

The first amendment relates to the Crown's use of patents, further clearing up the existing provisions on the use of patents for services funded by the Federal, State or Territorial Governments of Australia. The aim of this is to reduce uncertainty as to when the power can be used. It also adds more levels of accountability over the use of patents for those purposes, forcing the Government agencies to negotiate with the patent owner prior to invoking the Crown's use on that patent - earlier legislation required absolutely no notice to the patent owner prior to use or negotiation over its use. If the negotiations are unsuccessful, Ministerial authorization can be sought to use this power. The amendments would lastly include proper guidelines as to remuneration over the use of patents by the Crown.

Australian Bills lack the pizzazz of their American cousins
The second amendment would implement the TRIPS protocol into Australian law, which would enable the issuance of compulsory licenses by the Courts for the manufacturing and exportation of patented medication to third-world countries. This would enable the importation of much cheaper drugs to countries suffering from diseases such as HIV, malaria or tuberculosis which would otherwise have very limited resources to attain these drugs.

The third amendment gives owners of Plant Breeder's Rights a course of redress against possible infringers of those rights in the Federal Circuit Court. The aim for this is to allow for a much quicker, more cost-effective and less formal way to handle these disputes when compared to taking it to the Federal Court.

The fourth amendment deals with the creation of a single trans-Tasman (Australia & New Zealand) patent attorney regime, with common qualification requirements, an IP Attorneys Board and a Disciplinary Tribunal. The amendment also creates a single patent application and examination process, lessening the amount of administration in these processes which currently exist.

The other more minor amendments deal with document retention requirements in patents, trade marks and registered designs, removing them completely from all related acts. This brings all document retention requirements under the Archives Act 1983, removing redundant copies. As said above, there are also some amendments dealing with the Raising The Bar Act 2012, fixing some oversights in its drafting.

Overall the Bill does propose some welcome changes, especially relating to the implementation of the TRIPS protocol which Australia accepted in 2007 and the faster and easier way of dealing with possible infringements of PBRs. The Bill has only passed its first reading, so its content is still subject to change over the course of its road to assent, but the given form of the Bill does inspire faith in its efficacy.

The Explanatory Memorandum for the Bill can be found here.

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