WA’s new IP policy targets public sector commercialisation

Brandon How

The Western Australian state government has launched a new intellectual property policy to facilitate the commercialisation of public sector innovation.

Commercialisation of state-owned IP may take place when there is clear net benefit and should seek to maximise public benefit, given it is “considered appropriate, lawful, and financially viable following an appropriate risk assessment”, according to the guidance.

Consideration of appropriateness must include an assessment of whether the public benefit would be greater than granting open access to state-owned IP.

The policy was released on Tuesday, following the completion of a review of the state government’s IP policy by the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science, and Innovation (JTSI).

According to a discussion paper released last year, Australian governments and agencies represented about one per cent of all patent, plant breeders’s rights and trademarks protections registered in the country between 2000 and 2020, with the WA government accounting for around 12 per cent.

Perth, Western Australia.

Despite this, spend on research and development within Western Australian government organisations was the third lowest of any state or territory at $245 million in 2020-21, according to another report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Feedback to the review highlighted that the previous IP policy had a “lack of clarity around pathways to commercialisation, which may lead to opportunity loss for the state”, with some describing it as a barrier to innovation.

Potential pathways outlined in the review include undertaking commercialisation in-house, joint venture arrangements, spin-off companies and assignment, or licensing to a third-party.

Either monetary or non-monetary rewards for public sector employees who “create original, significant, inventive and valuable IP” are also recommended to help foster a culture of innovation, as well as attract and retain talent.

Overall, the new IP policy contains guidance on responsible IP management and protection, ownership of government IP, commercialisation, divestment and the appropriate reward and recognition of WA public sector employees who develop significant and valuable IP.

The policy does not apply to the four public universities, state-owned utility companies, or other entities exempted from the Public Sector Management Act.

Among the guiding principles of intent, government agencies should consider state IP commercialisation “where appropriate and financially viable” and to facilitate innovation across the public sector.

In considering other actions relating to state IP, the policy also calls for the state to consider “building the state’s reputation for innovation and entrepreneurial activity and establishing new revenue streams”.

Deputy Premier and State Development, Jobs, and Trade minister Roger Cook said the policy would support and foster growth of the state’s priority sectors while attracting greater investment and talent.

“Experience has shown that the WA public sector has the capability to develop inventions and innovations that can be of benefit locally and internationally,” Mr Cook said.

“With this policy we want to assist agencies and IP creators to identify and capitalise on these opportunities, increase the benefits from these inventions, and get beneficial outcomes for our State.

“We listened to a broad range of stakeholders who shared their experiences and knowledge in the use, development and management of IP across various sectors, to ensure that this new policy supports the WA government’s commitment to diversify our state’s economy.”

The Western Australian government’s 10-year Innovation Strategy was launched last December, with an additional $9.1 million committed to the state’s startup-focused New Industries Fund in its 2023-24 budget. Among its goals is the state becoming a “world leader in research and inventiveness”.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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