Following their meeting in New Zealand the Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard and the Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key announced on 16 February 2011 that a single patent examination process will be initiated for Australian and New Zealand patent applications. This announcement falls within the framework of the Single Economic Market (SEM) Agreement between Australia and New Zealand.

The new, unified process

Under the process patent applications for the same invention will be examined by a single examiner from either Australia or New Zealand and the single examination process will take account of separate national laws to give rise to separate Australian and New Zealand patents. The result of this will be further alignment of the Australian and New Zealand patent systems and reduction in duplication of work by the Australian and New Zealand Intellectual Property Offices. According to the media announcement the single examination process should be in place within three years.

Further information is available at www.iponz.govt.nz/cms/iponz/sem/patents. Other Trans-Tasman processes that are being worked towards under the SEM agenda include establishing:

  • a single regulatory framework for patent attorneys;
  • a single trade mark regime;
  • a single application process for patents in both jurisdictions; and
  • a single plant variety right regime.