Australian Parliament Passes IP Law Reforms

Three weeks ago we reported the passage of the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Bill 2011 through the Australian Senate. As expected the Bill has now passed through the House of Representatives without amendment, and is likely to be signed into law within days.

In the second reading speeches (which can be accessed via the House of Representatives Hansard of 19 March 2012), the Bill received broad bipartisan support, as it had done in the Senate.

Perhaps a little more unexpected was the unqualified support of Adam Bandt. As a member of the Australian Greens party, Mr Bandt might have been expected to raise concerns, expressed by some in the community, regarding the Bill’s failure to address the patenting of genes and other biological materials, the impact of patents on cost and accessibility of healthcare, and whether the new research exemption to infringement goes far enough to give researchers full freedom to build on patented technologies.

Mr Bandt’s Melbourne electorate includes a number of institutions which are affected by these issues, including the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and the Children’s and Women’s hospitals, the University of Melbourne main campus, and one of Australia’s largest and most reputable medical research institutes, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. It appears that Mr Bandt took the trouble to consult with these stakeholders during his own consideration of the Bill, and he specifically identified their input in his second reading speech as a reason for his strong support.

The Governor General will shortly sign the Bill into law, starting a 12-month countdown to commencement of the bulk of its provisions. The implementation of a number of the reforms will rely upon the drafting of new and amended regulations by IP Australia during this period. Naturally, we will continue to follow the process, and keep readers informed of developments.