A new Intellectual Property (IP) Laws Amendment Bill 2013 was introduced into the Australian Parliament on 30 May 2013.

The key elements of this Bill involve:

1. ‘Crown use’ of patents:

  • The Bill clarifies the scope of ‘crown use’ – crown use can be exercised when an Australian state or territory government has the primary responsibility for providing or funding the provision of a service.  It is widely understood that this change has been driven by the Federal Department of Health’s concerns over accessability to medicines, and particularly to those based on gene technologies. This change was subject of very recent recommendations by the Productivity Commission arising out of its enquiry into the compulsory licensing provisions of the Patents Act.
  • Government agencies must attempt negotiations before invoking ‘Crown use’.
  • ‘Crown use’ requires approval from the relevant Federal Minister or Attorney-General.

2. The TRIPS Protocol

  • Australian medicine producers will be able to ask the Federal Court for a compulsory licence to manufacture and export patented pharmaceuticals to developing countries.
  • The provision seeks to promote generic pharmaceuticals manufacturing in Australia.
  • The patentee must be compensated so that it is not disadvantaged.

3. Plant Breeder's Rights (PBR)

  • The Federal Circuit Court to deal with PBR infringement matters.
  • The amendment provides the option of a more speedy, cost-effective and less formal alternative for considering less complex plant breeders' rights matters.

4. Trans -Tasman Single Economic Market

  • A single trans -Tasman patent attorney regime is introduced
  • Single patent application and examination processes - patent applications for the same invention will be examined by a single examiner in either country, while taking into account of the separate national laws.  Such a patent application will lead to two separate patents for Australia and New Zealand.

5. Technical amendments

  • Amendments to address minor oversights in the Raising the Bar Act 2012.

6. Miscellaneous administration matters

  • The Bill epeals document retention provisions under Patents, Trade Marks and Designs Acts.

The Bill and its Explanatory Memorandum are published on the Australian Parliament’s website.