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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 888


Senator CARR (VictoriaMinister for Manufacturing and Minister for Defence Materiel) (21:30): I thank the senators for their contribution to this debate. As I understand it, there is broad support in the chamber for this bill and I thank senators for that. Let me take this opportunity, in response, to try to answer some of the questions that have been raised. My understanding is that Senator Heffernan and Senator Xenophon have raised the case involving Sanofi-Aventis, where the High Court invalidated a patent. As I understand this particular case, or the suggestion has been made—

Senator Xenophon: That was Senator Heffernan, I think.

Senator CARR: You did not raise it? I see. My understanding then is that Senator Heffernan raised the issue about an undertaking to compensate the Commonwealth in regard to the court's actions in invalidating a patent. It has been suggested that money was lost to the PBS system because of the extended patent but it has not been repaid to the Commonwealth. The officers who are here tonight do not have the detail of that matter. It is the responsibility of the health department, as I understand it. The officers will take the questions on notice and provide further information to Senator Heffernan.

There have been a number of issues raised by the stakeholders. Senator Colbeck, I am sure you would appreciate this point. The bill is one that the community values and wants passed. I support the point that Senator Boyce made on the importance of the IP system. These are changes that have been under negotiation through a very broad range of consultations since 2009. It is a project that I had the opportunity to work on with the community to ensure significant advances to the IP system as a result of consultations.

I believe the effect of the three separate rounds of discussions over the past two years have seen innovators, researchers, small businesses, large corporations, lawyers, and patent and trademark attorneys make very useful contributions. The bill before the chamber is now a much better piece of legislation. A strong intellectual property system is critical to our capacity to drive innovation and research in this country. It directly benefits Australians. A robust patent system ensures that we have a proper system to protect intellectual property, but the administrative arrangements are undertaken in such a way as to not clog up the system. It allows proper competition in regard to the development of new ideas and better inventions.

This bill provides us with an opportunity to align standards with our major trading partners, to modernise the system. It allows us to be more competitive for Australian inventors, so they do not have to take their work overseas. It provides clarity, it provides certainty for our researchers and it means that if there is any suggestion—and the argument has been put that it is not presented with great evidence to sustain it—that litigation might be used as an impediment to research then that will be removed as a result of this legislation.

This bill when enacted will speed up the process of resolving patent and trademark applications. It will provide applications and the public with much better opportunities to ensure that they have the protections of patent law. The law helps IP professionals to assist those who seek to take advantage of the patent system. It makes it easier for them to secure a patent, but not for trivial things. It provides a much stronger quality of advice by making it easier to ensure that we can secure the necessary legal protections for people. It protects people from imitations and fakes. It provides better border protection systems and stronger sanctions against counterfeits.

Finally, the bill simplifies the more technical aspects of the current IP system so that innovators can spend less time prosecuting applications and more time innovating. That is why the bill is so named: raising the bar. It raises the quality of the innovation system to raise the quality of innovation and to benefit all Australians. That is why I argue we ought to support this bill and we ought to give it rapid passage.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.