The Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia recently announced a new initiative that will result in a single integrated patent examination process for both countries. One examiner, located in either Australia or New Zealand, will examine patent applications filed in both countries for the same invention. Applicants may benefit from a savings in examination costs and a faster, more consistent examination process.

The initiative is expected to be in place within three years and in two stages. In the first stage, both countries will rely on each other’s work and in the second stage the integrated examination process will be implemented.

The initiative aims to eliminate duplicated efforts in both patent offices, recognizing that most patent applications filed in New Zealand are also filed in Australia. Currently, these applications are subject to a similar but separate examination process in each patent office.

The integrated patent examination is not a harmonization of Australian and New Zealand patent laws. The Examiner will grant or refuse the application separately under each country’s laws and the laws do not have to be identical. A practical challenge will be ensuring that an Examiner from one country’s patent office can accurately apply the patent laws of the other country.