Following a rush of requests for examination of Australian Patent Applications in early 2013, IP Australia have released a statement indicating that the customer service charter will have to be reviewed in 2014.

As a result of the introduction of the "Raising the Bar Act (2012)" which came into effect on 15 April 2013, IP Australia has experienced a rush of Requests for Examination leading up to the commencement date. This rush of Requests for Examination has resulted in the number of cases for which Requests have been filed in 2012-13 being more than double the number filed in the previous Financial Year (i.e. July 2011 - June 2012).

IP Australia's Customer Service Charter states that applicants will receive a first Office Action within 12 months of requesting examination, but as a result of the number requests filed in 2012-13 there will be an increase in pendency of first reports in the coming years.

What is the effect for applicants?

It is expected that pendency is likely to increase, exceeding the current 12 month customer service charter, to average at approximately 19 months until IP Australia works through the backlog of examinations.  

In Australia an applicant must request examination on within 5 years of the filing date.  However the Commissioner may shorten this deadline by issuing a Direction to Request Examination which requires the applicant to request examination on within 2 Months of the date of the Direction.  This mechanism is used to maintain a steady flow of applications through the examination department.

To counter the recent increase in Requests for Examination, IP Australia has now restricted directions to applications that are 57 months from filing date to keep new requests at a minimum.

As there has not been a significant change to the number of patent applications being filed in Australia, we would expect the situation to return to normal after a year or two.

Click here for the full IP Australia update on patent examination timeframes.