A major impetus for the amendments to opposition procedures in the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Act 2012 (which commenced in 2013) (RTB) was speeding up trade mark opposition procedures, which at the time were generally taking over 18 months to resolve.
In part, the RTB trade mark opposition system has been wildly successful. Applicants are now required to file notices of intention to defend opposed trade mark applications, and almost half are failing to do so. These uncontested oppositions are now dealt with in a matter of months at minimal cost to opponents.
However, most contested oppositions still take over 18 months to resolve even though the parties are required to work through the substantive opposition steps including evidence within a much shorter period of time. Under the previous system, opposition delays commonly resulted from the conduct of the parties, including reliance on readily available extensions of time. Delays in the post-RTB system largely relate to IP Australia processing times, from delays in addressing standard form documents such as notices of intention to defend or formally alerting the other party as to the filing of evidence and resulting deadlines (which often takes several weeks) to substantial waiting times for hearings outside Canberra (often up to 6 months for a Sydney hearing) and for a final decision to issue. Taken individually these delays are often not long, but will nevertheless incrementally delay progress on a standard opposition by many months.
The RTB trade mark opposition system remains a significant improvement on the previous system, but expedited opposition processing at IP Australia would maximise the benefits of the system even further.