The establishment of a single trans-Tasman patent attorney regime has become one step closer to reality, with the Patents (Trans-Tasman Patent Attorneys and Other Matters) Amendment Bill passing its first reading.

Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Paul Goldsmith announced that the Bill will be referred to the Commerce Select Committee for consideration.

The Bill is touted by Mr Goldsmith as establishing a single joint registration regime for patent attorneys saving them time and money as well as allowing them to seamlessly practice in both Australia and New Zealand.  Whether that is correct is debatable.

Members of the New Zealand Profession will be required to pay a share of the costs of running the much larger Australian Register and disciplinary procedure.  This will inevitably result in an increase in registration costs for New Zealand registered attorneys. 

Patent Attorneys on both sides of the Tasman also have doubts whether the Bill will increase access to patent attorney services in Australia and New Zealand since attorneys have been permitted to practice in either country since 1997 (when legislation to enact the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement came into force).

The Bill’s proposed framework also includes provisions to facilitate joint filing and examination of patent applications In Australia and New Zealand.

“Currently most patent applications filed in New Zealand are also filed in Australia and undergo separate examination processes in both countries. The Bill introduces amendments to the Patents Act 2013 to reduce duplication by allowing for single patent application and examination processes between IP Australia and Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand.”

Since there are no plans to unify the patent laws in each country, the statement that the examination process will be “unified” should be treated with some caution.  Examiners will still be required to examine each application according to the laws of the country it is sought in – which may lead to different results in each jurisdiction. 

However, although the mechanism is likely to be largely administrative in nature it should still result in efficiencies which can be passed on to users of the system.