Review launched into patents system for SMEs

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

A review has been launched into the accessibility of Australia’s patent system for SMEs following the controversial scrapping of the innovation patents scheme.

Led by former Professional Standards Board for Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys chair and emeritus professor Raoul Mortley, the review will investigate how the patents system can be improved to make it more effective and efficient for small businesses.

The review was tacked onto legislation scrapping the innovation patents scheme, which were meant to offer a cheaper and quicker way for SMEs to trademark innovations that may not qualify for a full patent, by the Opposition late last year.

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Patents: A new review launched for SME patent protections

The review was meant to commence three months after the bill received royal assent, which happened in February, While it has been announced just in time, the review is not expected to properly kick off until around December, with the six-month inquiry to run into next year and a final report expected by May.

“The aim of the review is to make sure our patents system best supports the needs of SMEs, so Australian businesses can protect their inventions and operate with confidence in Australian markets and abroad,” industry minister Karen Andrews said.

“It is critical that Australia’s patent system best enables our innovative SMEs to protect their great ideas, and I look forward to Professor Mortley’s findings.”

The review is part of a “suite of initiatives” the government plans to introduce over the coming months in an effort to improve Australia’s IP system for smaller businesses, including an SME case management service, an SME fast-track service, a dedicated outreach program and an online portal.

The review is calling for submissions from SMEs who use or are considering using the patent system in Australia or overseas, along with other stakeholders and the general public.

The Coalition passed legislation late last year controversially scrapping the innovation patents scheme, a move branded “very disappointing” and “ridiculous” by Australia’s peak IP body.

The bill was supported by the Opposition, despite its concerns over a “significant gap” being left by the abolishment of the scheme. Labor did successfully amend the legislation to extend the grandfathering period to 18 months and to require this new review.

At the time, Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia councillor Dr Grant Shoebridge said another review of the scheme was unnecessary.

“To support the bill and say let’s have another review is ridiculous. The government is under no obligation to introduce a revised patent system, I just don’t see that happening,” Dr Shoebridge told InnovationAus late last year.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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