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IP Australia

CHAIR —Welcome, Mr Noonan. Do you have an opening statement that you would like to make?

Mr Noonan —No, thank you, Chair.

Senator BUSHBY —Thank you for coming along today to assist us. In the Cutler report that was released more than two years ago now it was stated:

... in new areas of patenting such as software and business methods, there is strong evidence that existing intellectual property arrangements are hampering innovation.

In the two years since then I believe a review has been set up and is being run by the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property, but there has not been anything recommended to the government that is publicly available yet through that process. Can you give us an outline of when you expect that process to finish, when the recommendations will be provided to government and when the government is expected to provide a final public response?

Mr Noonan —I think the review went on to talk about the general standards of patentability within Australia being arguably lower than they were in other countries, and it talked about the disadvantages of that. Since then, IP Australia has been putting out a number of papers about how the law could be changed in that area. I think we put out the first papers in early 2009. We had a round of consultation about that. A second, more refined set of proposals was put out in late 2009 and we had a second round of consultation. We are now working towards the preparation of a bill that would implement the proposals that we have put forward.

Senator BUSHBY —Do you have any indication of timelines or when things are likely to happen?

Mr Noonan —I do not have a precise indication. It depends on drafting resources and how quickly the bill can be drafted within the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.

Senator BUSHBY —So you are up to the stage where you are ready to brief the parliamentary counsel or have you briefed them?

Mr Noonan —We have issued instructions to parliamentary counsel.

Senator BUSHBY —So you are just waiting for them to come back with a bill. Presumably, it will then go back to the minister?

Mr Noonan —In fact, the Office of Parliamentary Counsel has commenced drafting a bill, but when they will complete that will depend upon the other bills that might come into the office. Of course, when we have a bill that is ready to go we would present that to the minister.

Senator BUSHBY —Then it is up to the minister as to what he will do with that.

Mr Noonan —That is correct.

Senator BUSHBY —I also want to ask you about the agreement that was signed in 2008 between the IP officers of Australia and Vietnam. Can you outline what has happened in the two and a half years since and what concrete outcomes there have been for Australian businesses as a result of that arrangement?

Mr Noonan —This is an agreement for cooperation. We have a number of these agreements. I would probably characterise them as agreements that are about helping less experienced IP officers develop their skills. In the case of Vietnam there have been some exchanges of staff and also there have been some joint projects involving public education and awareness about IP issues. I would not say that the state of the IP system throughout the region is such that that converts quickly to concrete benefits for Australian businesses, but our long-term goal is to benefit Australian exporters over time by encouraging the development of strong IP systems in various countries in the region.

Senator BUSHBY —By ensuring that their intellectual property is protected when they go into those countries?

Mr Noonan —Indeed.

Senator BUSHBY —You mentioned that there are a number of such agreements. How many of those kinds of agreements are in place, and with which countries?

Mr Noonan —I would have to take that on notice. I do not have a complete list.

Senator BUSHBY —That would be appreciated.

[11.38 am]