29 August 2013

NZ Patents

Alongside the ACIP consultation paper regarding Innovation Patents highlighted here it is interesting to see the new New Zealand Patents Bill, passed yesterday and heading towards signature by the NZ Governor-General.

The Bill was noted in 2010. It features provision for the protection of Māori traditional knowledge, along with the protection of indigenous animals animals plants, but does not fully implement recommendations in the Waitangi Tribunal's Ko Aotearoa Tēnei report regarding New Zealand law and policy affecting Māori culture and identity.

The Bill provides for a Māori Advisory Committee to, on request, advise the Commissioner of Patents whether an invention is derived from Māori traditional knowledge, from indigenous plants or from indigenous animals. If so, the committee will advise whether commercial exploitation is likely to be contrary to Māori values, with the Commissioner being able to refuse registration and thus patent protection.

Section 275 provides for Appointment and membership of Māori advisory committee -
(1) The Commissioner must appoint a committee called the Māori advisory committee.
(2) The Commissioner may, at any time,—
(a) appoint a person to the committee:
(b) remove a member from the committee and, if the Commissioner thinks fit, appoint another member in that member’s place.
(3) A person must not be appointed as a member of the committee unless, in the opinion of the Commissioner, the person is qualified for appointment, having regard to that person’s knowledge of mātauranga Māori (Māori traditional knowledge) and tikanga Māori (Māori protocol and culture).
(4) A member of the committee may resign office by notice in writing to the Commissioner.
Section 276 indicates that
The function of the Māori advisory committee is to advise the Commissioner (on request) on whether—
(a) an invention claimed in a patent application is derived from Māori traditional knowledge or from indigenous plants or animals; and
(b) if so, whether the commercial exploitation of that invention is likely to be contrary to Māori values. 
Importantly, s 277 states that "The Commissioner must consider, but is not bound by, the advice given by the Māori advisory committee".