The Advisory Council on Intellectual Property (ACIP) is an independent body set up to provide advice to the government on IP matters. To this end, the ACIP has now conducted a number of reviews, with two recent ones looking at post-grant patent enforcement strategies and the enforcement of plant breeders' rights.

The reviews found that owners of patents and plant breeders' rights encounter significant barriers when enforcing their rights. In particular, the ACIP was concerned about access to affordable out-of-court mechanisms to resolve patent disputes, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. Furthermore, the ACIP identified barriers to the effective enforcement of plant breeders' rights, and found that these discouraged the development of new plant varieties.

The ACIP made a number of recommendations to address the issues identified by these reviews, and the government has now responded to these. In a media release entitled “Getting tough on imitators”, Senator Kim Carr, the minister for innovation, industry, science and research, announced the key changes that will be made as a result of the ACIP reviews.

Plant breeders will be able to save time and money because they will be able to progress matters through the Federal Magistrates Court, rather than through the Federal Court as is presently the situation.

Further, IP Australia will be tasked to set up an online resource to help rights holders to find cheaper and faster alternative ways of resolving disputes through mediation and arbitration.

The ACIP had recommended that IP Australia should establish an IP dispute resolution centre similar to the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Arbitration and Mediation Centre. However, the government rejected this recommendation on the basis that it was not appropriate for IP Australia, as a regulatory agency, to provide post-grant mediation services.

The government responses to the ACIP reviews are available at www.acip.gov.au.