Rolling along from our previous report on the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2013, we refer to the fifth schedule of the bill which proposes amendments to create a Single economic IP market between Australia and New Zealand.  At its core, the bill allows for a single patent application and examination processes for Australia and New Zealand in addition to a single trans-Tasman patent attorney registration/regulation regime.

Shared patent application and examination processes

The impetus for this aspect of the bill is derived from the fact that many patent applications filed in Australia are also filed in New Zealand with each application being subject to separate examination processes in each country. Under the single examination model, patent applications for the same invention would be examined by a single examiner in either country. The regime will take account of the separate national laws and will lead to two separate patents for Australia and New Zealand.

What does it mean for working families (a.k.a. why should we care)?

In theory, a single patent application process will remove duplication, drive efficiencies and reduce costs, making it easier (and hopefully cheaper) for businesses to protect their intellectual property in both jurisdictions.

Accordingly, two countries who are as much at odds in patent law as they are at rugby may be coming together to share the load (and hopefully the love) under a shared Attorney, Application and Examination model.  Unfortunately, whether Australian Examiner’s will be turning their back on the IPONZ haka was not discussed in the Explanatory memorandum.

Trans-Tasman patent attorney regime

Legislative champions of this aspect of the bill note that many Australian and New Zealand patent attorneys are registered in both countries.  Accordingly, these amendments seek to establish a new framework that will include a single Trans-Tasman register of patent attorneys, common qualifications for registration, a single Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Board and a single Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Disciplinary Tribunal.

What does this mean for the attorneys and their clients?

The party line appears to be that a single regulatory body will provide economies of scale, saving time, money and effort for the profession as a whole (and hopefully their clients).

Furthermore, the governments hope is that standardised accreditation for patent attorneys may give inventors confidence that they are receiving the same high-quality, informed advice on both sides of the Tasman.  For clients of POF, this regimen offers nothing new, with resident experts in Australian and New Zealand patent practice ensuring robust IP rights are obtained for clients seeking IP protection in both jurisdictions.

In any case, it is thought that removing barriers for patent attorneys and encouraging competition will drive productivity, innovation and industry growth for both countries.  Whether this becomes a reality remains to be seen.

When do we have to worry about these changes?

At this stage we don’t have a date of implementation, apparently a day will be fixed by Proclamation in due course and at least within 24 months following the day the remainder of the amendments receive Royal Assent.

Australia and New Zealand both remain key jurisdictions for many inventors.