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Labor flags additional patent protection for innovators

Thursday, 24 November 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
Providing patent protection for innovators and researchers, while ensuring reasonable access to new technologies, are among the key aims to come out of reports into Australia’s patent system.

 

Innovation Minister Kim Carr said the Government has viewed reports from a Senate committee, the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property, and the Australian Law Reform Commission.

 

Senator Carr said the Government’s response to the reports is designed to “give confidence to the significant investments in biotechnology innovation, and research and development”.

 

The Government will also ensure patients are not denied “reasonable access” to affordable medical treatments through inappropriate use of the Patents Act, Carr said.

 

“We need the incentives provided by the patent system to encourage the development of new technologies,” Carr said in a statement.

 

“But this Government will not allow patent owners to block reasonable access to affordable medical treatments and essential diagnostic tests, nor to stifle legitimate research.”

 

The Government currently employs Crown use provisions, allowing it to use patented inventions without the permission of patent owners.

 

A review of existing compulsory licence provisions will report on any changes that may be necessary to this safeguard.

 

A number of the proposed changes are already being implemented by intellectual property bill Raising the Bar, introduced into the Senate in June.

 

“These measures will raise the standard for patents given in Australia. They will also help Australian innovators to compete strongly in overseas markets,” Carr said.

 

“The changes also give Australian researchers confidence and certainty so they can focus on their research rather than be held up by concerns about infringing patents.”

 

The Government will also introduce a morality exclusion to address community concerns about the commercialisation of inventions.

 

It is keen to ensure the rights of all citizens, researchers, patients and patent holders are protected and that the patent system continues to serve the needs of Australian society.

 

Meanwhile, the ALRC report included some other noteworthy recommendations:

 

  • Ensuring that publicly-funded research, where commercialised, results in appropriate public benefit, including through the adoption of appropriate patent practices.
  • Encouraging universities and other research organisations to raise the awareness of researchers about patenting issues and the commercialisation of research.
  • Ensuring research organisations and biotechnology companies are adequately skilled to deal with issues concerning commercialisation, and the licensing of patented inventions.
  • Clarifying the application of competition law to the exploitation of intellectual property rights.
  • Clarifying the scope and practical application of exceptions to copyright infringement in relation to research.