The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act 2015 (Cth) received royal assent on 25 February 2015. Although some changes under the Act came into force on 26 February 2015 (and with retrospective effect), the main changes will come into effect on 25 August 2015. These changes will:
- amend the Patents Act 1990 to allow Australian pharmaceutical manufacturers to supply least-developed and developing countries with patented pharmaceuticals so that these countries can more effectively respond to public health crises, if and when they arise. Under the new arrangements, which implement the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), Australian laboratories will be able to apply to the Federal Court for a compulsory licence to manufacture generic versions of patented medicines and export these medicines to developing countries in circumstances of national emergency or extreme urgency (and in other limited circumstances); and
- expand the Federal Circuit Court’s jurisdiction to include Plant Breeder’s Rights matters.
Australia and New Zealand to streamline patent application and examination processes
The Act will also streamline the Australian and New Zealand processes for patent applications. Under the proposed system (which, under the Act, is to be implemented before 25 February 2017), there will be a single trans-Tasman patent application and examination process for Australia and New Zealand. The bilateral arrangement between Australia and New Zealand will also allow for the joint regulation of patent attorneys. Under the arrangement there will be unified qualification, registration and regulation processes for patent attorneys.
Repeal of document retention provisions and correction of minor technical errors in the Patents Act
With effect from 26 February 2015, the Act has also repealed various document retention provisions in the Patents, Trade Marks and Designs Acts which are already provided for under the Archives Act 1983.
In addition, minor technical errors that were overlooked in the drafting of the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Act 2012 have been amended in the Patents Act 1990. These amendments commenced retrospectively from 15 April 2013 (the date the Raising the Bar legislation came into force).