Further to our recent blog post intellectual property laws to be put under the microscope, the Productivity Commission has released the draft results of its inquiry into Australia’s intellectual property arrangements. The final report is expected to be handed to the Australian Government in August 2016 and published by the Commission a short time later.

In the 601 page draft report, the Commission has called for a fundamental reworking of Australia’s intellectual property regime, highlighting the imbalance between intellectual property rights holders and users.

Generally speaking, the draft report provides that IP arrangements should:

  • encourage investment in IP that would not otherwise occur
  • provide the minimum incentives necessary to encourage that investment and
  • resist impeding follow-on innovation, competition and access to goods and services.

The subsequent key recommendations focus largely on effective and efficient functionality of Australia’s copyright and patent arrangements and aim to improve the overall wellbeing of Australian society, taking into account Australia’s international trade obligations.

For example, proposed changes to the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) include a new system of user rights, including the introduction of a broad principles-based fair use exception, akin to what is in place in the US.

The Commission found that Australia’s copyright system has progressively expanded and protects works longer than is necessary to encourage creative endeavour, with consumers bearing the cost. It emphasises that better use of data and more accessible content are the key to reducing online copyright infringement. Therefore, rather than increasing enforcement efforts or penalties, it is thought that a rebalancing of Australia’s copyright system will benefit Australian copyright creators and consumers alike.

Other recommendations include:

  • amending ss. 7(2) and 7(3) of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth), such that an invention will be taken to involve an inventive step if, having regard to the prior art base, it is not obvious to a person skilled in the relevant art
  • belatedly incorporating an objects clause into the Patents Act
  • fine-tuning the trademarks and plant breeders statutes
  • abolishing the controversial innovation patent system and
  • bringing intellectual property transactions under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth).

While it is not the first time many of the recommendations have been put forward, if the draft recommendations are maintained in the final report, and embraced by the Government, we can expect significant changes to Australian IP legislation in the future.

We will keep you updated on the final outcome of the inquiry when the report is released.

In the meantime, the complete draft report is available for your reference here.