Australia and New Zealand move one step closer to a single patent examination system

On 16 February 2011, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and New Zealand Prime Minister John Keys made a joint announcement regarding the integration of the patent examination procedures in Australia and New Zealand.  The announcement is a key part of the Trans Tasman Single Economic Market concept, one component of which is the integration of the intellectual property systems of the two countries to provide:

  1. a single regulatory framework for patent attorneys;
  2. one trans-Tasman trade mark regime;
  3. one application process for patents in both countries; and
  4. a single plant variety right regime.

According to the statement, the single application process will operate so that patent applications filed in both Australia and New Zealand for the same invention will be examined by one examiner applying the patent laws of each country (ie the laws need not be identical).  Consequently, the proposal does not require substantive legislative amendment in either country. 
Integration is intended to avoid unnecessary duplication of the examination processes in both countries, to save costs by reducing the professional costs associated with filing patents and to speed up the examination processes.  This level of co-operation between the intellectual property agencies is a world first. 
IP Australia estimates that the single examination system will be in place within 3 years.

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