One of the greatest perceived barriers to obtaining a patent in Australia is the cost and time involved.

However, Australia has a unique two-tiered patent system which can fast-track obtaining patents, and potentially postpone the post-filing cost of prosecuting the patent indefinitely.

Our system comprises ‘standard patents’, which last up to 20 years, and ‘innovation patents’ which have a maximum lifespan of 8 years. While innovation patents have a shorter life, they have some significant advantages over standard patents.

A key benefit of innovation patents is that they will be granted following a mere formalities check – usually in about 1 month. They are not examined for patentability before grant. This means that the commercial value arising from being able to label your products as being covered by a granted patent can be realised in a short timeframe.

Further, examination for patentability – which is required in order to have the patent ‘certified’ so as to sue on it – need only ever be requested if the patent needs to be enforced. This means that the cost of having the patent examined may never be incurred. Practically, the patent could see out its entire lifespan as a deterrent and/or licensing vehicle without ever needing to be enforced. Then the only cost following filing would be annual renewal fees.

Another key advantage of innovation patents is that they have a lower ‘patentability’ threshold than standard patents, which can make the validity of an innovation patent more difficult to challenge than a standard patent.

The Australian Government is currently reviewing the innovation patent system, and there is some prospect that it will be scrapped. So, if you are thinking about an innovation patent, it would be sensible to act quickly.