Australia Raises the Bar

IP Australia (IPA) experienced a 13% growth in annual patent filings in 2013, as patent owners rushed to file their applications ahead of significant reforms to Australia’s patent legislation.  As reported in TheAustralian Intellectual Property Report 2014, Australian patent applications jumped 12.7% to 29,717 in 2013 - the highest growth in the nation’s annual filings since 20041.

Much of the observed increase in patent filings can be attributed to law reforms effected in Australia last year, The IP Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Act 2012, intended to raise the standards required to obtain patents in Australia.  The law reforms motivated many patent owners to file and request examination of their Australian applications prior to the new Act’s April 15, 2013 commencement date, to ensure their applications would proceed under the old system and avoid the new more rigorous standards.

April 2013 was the single largest peak in patent applications and examination requests that IPA has ever experienced. Several figures released in their 2014 report illustrate the impact of ‘Raising the Bar’on Australian patent filings, including:

  1. An increase in total patent filings, culminating in 1,546 new applications lodged in a single day the Friday prior to the law change (compared with IPA’s usual 2,130 monthly average).
  2. Direct standard patent filings jumped significantly to 8,997 in 2013 - up 24% from 2012 - as many international applicants chose to file their Australian applications directly with IPA (via the Paris Convention) ahead of the new Act’s commencement.

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Situation in New Zealand

New Zealand is shortly set to implement its own intellectual property law reforms with the Patents Act 2013 due to commence on September 13, 2014. The new Act is intended to bring New Zealand’s patent laws in to line with that of most other countries around the world. The likely effect of the changes will be to make it harder to obtain patent protection in New Zealand, but to grant patents of a more robust standard.

Given the filing trends recently observed in Australia, it is likely that the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) will experience a surge in patent applications in the coming months, as patent owners file their New Zealand applications early to avoid the higher standards implemented under the new Act. 

If you are interested to read further about the expected changes, see our previous article discussing the Patents Act 2013 and the expected changes here. Additionally, an information sheet for patent applicants and intellectual property professionals providing a more detailed overview of the new Patents Act 2013 can be found here.

The new Act will apply to all complete patent applications filed in New Zealand on or after September 13, 2014. This includes Paris Convention and PCT National Phase applications; even if an earlier filed application from which the New Zealand application claims priority was filed prior to this date. To avoid an application being held to the new more rigorous standards, applicants should file their applications in New Zealand as soon as possible and prior to September 13, 2014.

There is presently no requirement to request examination of a New Zealand patent application in order to ensure its progression under the old system. This is an additional benefit of filing prior to the law reforms, as patent owners who file an application in New Zealand on or after September 13, 2014 will need to request examination of their application and pay any additional associated fees.

Emma Senior