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Thursday, 27 June 2002
Page: 4543

Mr ENTSCH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) (11:34 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill, the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2002, makes a series of technical amendments to several intellectual property acts.

The bill amends the Patents Act 1990, the Trade Marks Act 1995 and the Designs Act 1906 to clarify that errors and omissions by people providing services to IP Australia, such as independent contractors and consultants, are encompassed by the existing extension of time provisions. Currently, these acts provide that a person must be granted an extension of time if a relevant time period was not complied with because of an error or omission by the Commissioner of Patents, the Registrar of Trade Marks, the Registrar of Designs or an employee of the relevant office.

However, IP Australia often uses the services of independent contractors and consultants during the processing of applications, such as the use of a courier service to transport documents from a suboffice to the central office in Canberra, or a private company for maintenance of information systems or storage of data. These amendments will make it clear that the extension of time provisions encompass errors and omissions by these parties.

These amendments will therefore ensure that any person who is legitimately entitled to an extension of time will be granted one.

This bill also amends subsection 45(3) and section 101D of the Patents Act, which deal with the disclosure of information to the Commissioner of Patents that is relevant to the patentability of an invention.

These provisions were previously amended by the Patents Amendment Act 2001. Those amendments were intended to ensure that the commissioner had access to as much relevant information as possible when determining whether an invention was patentable. However, based on initial experience with the new system, it has recently become apparent that those amendments will not achieve the government's policy objectives, because they lack certainty and impose an undue burden on applicants and patentees.

In order to maintain Australia's strong patent system, the government has decided to take swift action to rectify this situation. The amendments in this bill narrow the scope of the information covered by these provisions to provide an effective disclosure regime that reduces the burden on applicants and patentees while still ensuring that relevant information is disclosed.

These amendments will replace the disclosure obligations that have applied since the commencement of the Patents Amendment Act 2001. That is, they will apply to any standard patent application that had not been accepted before 1 April 2002 and any innovation patent for which examination had not begun before 1 April 2002.

This will mean that the new disclosure arrangements will completely replace the current provisions, and any applicant or patentee who has not complied with those provisions will no longer be obliged to. If they have complied with the current provisions then, for the purposes of the Patents Act, the information they have provided would only need to meet the requirements of the new provisions.

So, although the amendments will not commence retrospectively, they will have a retrospective effect.

This should not disadvantage any applicants or patentees, because these amendments will be introducing an improved disclosure regime that imposes a significantly reduced burden on them. In addition, the bill provides that any information provided under the current provisions is taken to have been provided under the new provisions and, therefore, will not need to be resubmitted.

These arrangements will ensure that people are not adversely affected by the operation of these amendments.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the valuable contribution of representatives from the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia and the Australian Federation of Intellectual Property Attorneys in the development of this bill. Their input is certainly very much appreciated. I present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Sidebottom) adjourned.