The implementation of a single trans-Tasman patent application/examination process and patent attorney regime may be one-step closer.

In March last year, we reported that Australia’s Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act 2015 (Cth) had passed. One of the changes brought about in this Act was the implementation of a single trans-Tasman patent application/examination process and patent attorney regime. These provisions have not yet come into force as they require corresponding provisions to be introduced by the New Zealand Government by 24 February 2017 (and the signing of certain bilateral agreements between Australia and New Zealand relating to how the system will be managed).

On 9 February 2016, the New Zealand Parliament held the first reading of its own Patents (Trans-Tasman Patent Attorneys and Other Matters) Amendment Bill (NZ) (‘the Bill’). Part 1 of the Bill inserts provisions allowing for a Single Application Process (SAP) and Single Examination Process (SEP) for patent applications (more detail about the SAP and SEP may be found here). In particular, the Bill introduces provisions for delegating powers of the New Zealand Commissioner of Patents to an Australian patent official and for recognising certain documents and fees filed in Australia as having been duly filed in New Zealand.

Another amendment introduced by Part 1 of the Bill is to remove unity of invention as a ground of pre-grant opposition. At this stage, the provision removing unity as a ground of opposition does not appear to have retrospective effect. However, we understand that this issue will be discussed and debated as the Bill makes its way through Parliament. Part 2 of the Bill includes provisions relating to the single trans-Tasman registration regime for patent attorneys (more detail about this regime may be found here).

The Bill is currently with a Select Committee, who have invited public submissions and who will now prepare a report due to be given back to the New Zealand Parliament in August 2016. We will advise of developments as this legislation progresses.