Proposal for a single body to regulate patents in NZ and Australia

Inventors and patent attorneys asked to respond to trans-Tasman discussion paper

New Zealand and Australian inventors and patent attorneys are being invited to respond to a proposal for a single body to regulate patent attorneys in both countries. Calling for comments on a discussion paper, New Zealand Commerce Minister Simon Power and Australian Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr say it is important that government regulations take into account the needs of the patent attorneys and innovators who use them. In New Zealand, software patents are to be phased out, under amendments to the Patents Act, but devices that contain embedded software will be able to be patented. The discussion paper outlines a trans-Tasman regulatory framework with a single body responsible for patent attorney registration, training and disciplinary standards. Power says the initiative forms part of the Single Economic Market outcomes framework between Australia and New Zealand to help create a seamless business environment. “Standardised accreditation for patent attorneys will give inventors confidence that they are receiving the same high quality, informed advice on both sides of the Tasman,” he says. “Removing barriers for patent attorneys and encouraging competition are key elements that can help drive productivity, innovation, and industry growth for both countries”. Written responses to the Ministry of Economic Development close on May 16. The patent attorney profession is currently regulated in Australia by the Professional Standards Board for Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys (PSB) (education and discipline) while actual registration is the function of the Designated Manager (the Director General of IP Australia). New Zealand does not currently have a statutory professional standards board.

The New Zealand Patent Attorneys Bill 2008 (the “New Zealand Bill”), currently before Parliament, provides for the introduction of the Patent Attorneys’ Standards Board of New Zealand, which would have a similar role and functions to that of Australia’s PSB.

Currently for a person to become a registered patent attorney under the New Zealand Patents Act 1953 certain criteria must be met, including the requirement to pass the New Zealand Patent Attorney Examinations. The examinations are conducted by the Commissioner of Patents in conjunction with the New Zealand Institute of Patent Attorneys (NZIPA).

Enactment of the New Zealand Bill would introduce a regulatory regime for patent attorneys similar to the current Australian regime. If the regulatory regime under the New Zealand Bill were to be implemented, it is anticipated that the registration and renewal fees New Zealand patent attorneys would need to pay more. The current $NZ67 is likely to increase to a level that is comparable to those payable in Australia - up to around $NZ267 for initial registration and $NZ467 for annual renewals.

In August 2009 the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia endorsed the development of a trans-Tasman regulatory framework for patent attorneys as part of theoutcomes for a Single Economic Market (SEM) between Australia and New Zealand.

In New Zealand, trade mark attorneys are neither recognised nor regulated as an occupational group, and no change is proposed to this arrangement. However, to the extent that the governance body addresses issues relating to Australian trade mark attorneys, care would be taken to avoid any cross-subsidisation of those activities by patent attorneys, the MED says.

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