On July 5, 2011 the Australian Government and the New Zealand Government jointly announced an implementation plan to streamline patent prosecution in Australia and New Zealand. The implementation plan, which is part of the Single Economic Market (SEM) established to streamline the Australian and New Zealand economic markets, aims to deliver a single application process covering both countries by early 2013, progressing to a single examination process by June 2014.

Currently, a work sharing model is being developed which will be the first stage of the implementation plan. This will not be implemented until new patent legislation in New Zealand comes into force, which is expected to be in early 2012. Details of the single application and single examination processes are yet to be announced but the clear intention is that applications filed in both Australia and New Zealand “will be examined by one examiner located in either country”. Both governments have said that doing so will eliminate “unnecessary duplication” in the examination process, noting that it is “not necessary” for the patent laws in each country to be identical.

Davies Collison Cave in principle supports the streamlining of examination in both countries, as the two markets are closely aligned for so many of our clients. However, the patent laws of Australia and New Zealand differ significantly in many important aspects, even with the new patent legislation currently proposed for New Zealand, and it remains to be seen how these differences will be managed. We await with interest the details of the implementation plan.