30 April 2016

Productivity Commission's draft Intellectual Property Arrangements report

The Productivity Commission yesterday released its draft report on Intellectual Property Arrangements, ie the inquiry into the intellectual property regime noted here.

Quick comments feature in a piece here.

The report features the following findings and recommendations
The analytical framework
Draft Recommendation 2.1 In formulating intellectual property policy, the Australian Government should be informed by a robust evidence base and have regard to the principles of: • effectiveness, which addresses the balance between providing protection to encourage additional innovation (which would not have otherwise occurred) and allowing ideas to be disseminated widely • efficiency, which addresses the balance between returns to innovators and to the wider community • adaptability, which addresses the balance between providing policy certainty and having a system that is agile in response to change • accountability, which balances the cost of collecting and analysing policy–relevant information against the benefits of having transparent and evidence–based policy that considers community wellbeing.
Copyright term and scope
Draft Finding 4.1 Australia’s copyright system has expanded over time, often with no transparent, evidence based policy analysis demonstrating the need for, or quantum of, new rights.
Draft Finding 4.2 While hard to pinpoint an optimal copyright term, a more reasonable estimate would be closer to 15 to 25 years after creation; considerably less than 70 years after death.
Draft Recommendation 4.1 The Australian Government should amend the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) so the current terms of copyright protection apply to unpublished works.
Copyright accessibility: licensing and exceptions
Draft Recommendation 5.1 The Australian Government should implement the recommendation made in the House of Representatives Committee report At What Cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax to amend the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) to make clear that it is not an infringement for consumers to circumvent geoblocking technology. The Australian Government should seek to avoid any international agreements that would prevent or ban consumers from circumventing geoblocking technology.
Draft Recommendation 5.2 The Australian Government should repeal parallel import restrictions for books in order for the reform to take effect no later than the end of 2017.
Draft Recommendation 5.3 The Australian Government should amend the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (Copyright Act) to replace the current fair dealing exceptions with a broad exception for fair use. The new exception should contain a clause outlining that the objective of the exception is to ensure Australia’s copyright system targets only those circumstances where infringement would undermine the ordinary exploitation of a work at the time of the infringement. The Copyright Act should also make clear that the exception does not preclude use of copyright material by third parties on behalf of users. The exception should be open ended, and assessment of whether a use of copyright material is fair should be based on a list of factors, including: • the effect of the use on the market for the copyright protected work at the time of the use • the amount, substantiality or proportion of the work used, and the degree of transformation applied to the work • the commercial availability of the work at the time of the infringement • the purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is commercial or private use. The Copyright Act should also specify a non–exhaustive list of illustrative exceptions, drawing on those proposed by the Australian Law Reform Commission. The accompanying Explanatory Memorandum should provide guidance on the application of the above factors.
Patent system fundamentals
Draft Recommendation 6.1 The Australian Government should amend ss. 7(2) and 7(3) of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth) such that an invention is taken to involve an inventive step if, having regard to the prior art base, it is not obvious to a person skilled in the relevant art. The Australian Government should state the following in the associated Explanatory Memorandum: • the intent of this change is to better target socially valuable inventions • the test should be applied by asking whether a course of action required to arrive at the invention or solution to the problem would have been obvious for a person skilled in the art to try with a reasonable expectation of success. The Australian Government should explore opportunities to further raise the overall threshold for inventive step in collaboration with other countries in international forums.
Draft Recommendation 6.2 The Australian Government should incorporate an objects clause into the Patents Act 1990 (Cth) (Patents Act). The objects clause should describe the purposes of the legislation as being to enhance the wellbeing of Australians by providing patent protection to socially valuable innovations that would not have otherwise occurred and by promoting the dissemination of technology. In doing so, the patent system should balance the interests of patent applicants and patent owners, the users of technology — including follow–on innovators and researchers — and Australian society as a whole. The Australian Government should amend the Patents Act such that, when making a decision in relation to a patent application or an existing patent, the Commissioner of Patents and the Courts must have regard to the objects of the Patents Act.
Draft Recommendation 6.3 The Australian Government, with input from IP Australia, should explore the costs and benefits of using higher and more pronounced renewal fees later in the life of a standard patent, and making greater use of claim fees to limit the breadth of patent protection and to reduce strategic use of patents. The Australian Government should seek international cooperation on making greater use of patent fees to help ensure that patent holders are not overcompensated and to limit the costs of patent protection on the community.
Innovation patents
Draft Recommendation 7.1 The Australian Government should abolish the innovation patent system.
Business methods and software patents
Draft Recommendation 8.1 The Australian Government should amend s. 18 of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth) to explicitly exclude business methods and software from being patentable subject matter.
Pharmaceutical patents
Draft Recommendation 9.1 The Australian Government should reform extensions of patent term for pharmaceuticals such that they are calculated based only on the time taken for regulatory approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration over and above one year.
Draft Recommendation 9.2 Regardless of the method of calculating their duration (draft recommendation 9.1), extensions of term in Australia should only be granted through a tailored system which explicitly allows for manufacture for export in the extension period.
Draft Recommendation 9.3 There should be no extension of the period of data protection, including that applicable to biologics. Further, in the context of international negotiations, the Australian Government should work with other nations towards a system of eventual publication of clinical trial data in exchange for statutory data protection.
Draft Recommendation 9.4 The Australian Government should introduce a transparent reporting and monitoring system to detect any pay-for-delay settlements between originator and generic pharmaceutical companies. This system should be administered by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The monitoring should operate for a period of five years. Following this period, the Australian Government should institute a review of the regulation of pay-for-delay agreements (and other potentially anticompetitive arrangements specific to the pharmaceutical sector).
Draft Recommendation 9.5 The Australian Government should reform s. 76A of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth) to improve data collection requirements. Thereafter, extensions of term should not be granted until data is received in a satisfactory form. After five years of data has been collected, it should be used as part of a review to consider the ongoing costs and benefits of maintaining the extension of term system.
Registered designs
Draft Recommendation 10.1 Australia should not join the Hague Agreement until an evidence-based case is made, informed by a cost–benefit analysis.
Draft Finding 10.1 Despite the deficiencies of the registered design system, Australia has committed internationally to protecting designs and there is no clear superior alternative.
Trade marks and geographical indications
Draft Recommendation 11.1 In order to improve the effectiveness of the trade mark system, the Australian Government should: • restore the power for the trade mark registrar to apply mandatory disclaimers to trade mark applications, consistent with the recommendation of the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property in 2004 • repeal part 17 of the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth) (Trade Marks Act) • amend s. 43 of the Trade Marks Act so that the presumption of registrability does not apply to the registration of marks that could be misleading or confusing • amend the schedule of fees for trade mark registrations so that higher fees apply for marks that register in multiple classes and/or entire classes of goods and services.
IP Australia should: • require the Trade Marks Office to return to its previous practice of routinely challenging trade mark applications that contain contemporary geographical references (under s. 43 of the Trade Marks Act). Challenges would not extend where endorsements require goods and services to be produced in the area nominated • in conjunction with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, link the Australian Trade Mark On-line Search System database with the business registration portal, including to ensure a warning if a registration may infringe an existing trade mark, and to allow for searches of disclaimers and endorsements.
Draft Recommendation 11.2 The Australian Government should amend s. 123 of the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth) to ensure that parallel imports of marked goods do not infringe an Australian registered trade mark provided that the marked good has been brought to market elsewhere by the owner of the mark or its licensee. Section 97A of the Trade Marks Act 2002 (New Zealand) could serve as a model clause in this regard.
Plant Breeder’s Rights
Draft Recommendation 12.1 The Australian Government should proceed without delay to implement the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property 2010 recommendation to amend the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act 1994 (Cth) to enable essentially derived variety declarations to be made in respect of any variety.
Competition policy
Draft Recommendation 14.1 The Australian Government should repeal s. 51(3) of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (Competition and Consumer Act). The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission should issue guidance on the application of part IV of the Competition and Consumer Act to intellectual property.
IP and public institutions
Draft Recommendation 15.1 All Australian, and State and Territory Governments should implement an open access policy for publicly funded research. The policy should provide free access through an open access repository for all publications funded by governments, directly or through university funding, within 12 months of publication. The policy should minimise exemptions. The Australian Government should seek to establish the same policy for international agencies to which it is a contributory funder, but which still charge for their publications, such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Institutional and governance arrangements
Draft Finding 16.1 Model agreements on intellectual property would have the benefit of being fully transparent to Australian industry and to the broader community, as well as to foreign governments, so that all stakeholders are aware of what Australia sees as the ideal outcomes from a treaty.
International cooperation
Draft Finding 17.1 Approaches to international cooperation and lowering transaction costs will be most effective when pursued multilaterally rather than through bilateral arrangements. Moreover, harmonisation of laws is not the sole, or necessarily desirable, form of cooperation. Other approaches to international intellectual property cooperation can achieve their goals at lower cost and with greater flexibility.
Draft Recommendation 17.1 Australia should revive its role in supporting opportunities to promote global cooperation on intellectual property policy among intellectual property offices through the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization to avoid duplication and reduce transaction costs.
Compliance and enforcement
Draft Recommendation 18.1 The Australian Government should expand the safe harbour scheme to cover the broader set of online service providers intended in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).
Draft Finding 18.1 The evidence suggests timely and cost effective access to copyright-protected works is the most efficient and effective way to reduce online copyright infringement.
The report also features requests for further information -
Request  5.1 Other than for libraries and archives, to what extent are copyright licence conditions being used by rights holders to override the exceptions in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)? To what extent (if any) are these conditions being enforced and what are the resulting effects on users? Would amendments to the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) to preserve exceptions for digital material have any unintended impacts?
Request  5.2 Is the code of conduct for copyright collecting societies sufficient to ensure they operate transparently, efficiently and at best practice?
Request  5.3 Will the Australian Government’s proposed reforms to simplify and streamline education statutory licences result in an efficient and effective scheme? Should similar reforms be made to the operation of the government statutory licence scheme?
Request  6.1 The Commission is seeking further information from participants on the likely costs and benefits from reforming patent filing processes. Would there be any unintended consequences from requiring applicants to construct their claims in the two–part form that applies in Europe or articulating why their invention is non–obvious? Are there better approaches available?
Request  6.2 The Commission is seeking information from participants on the costs and benefits of an exemption from infringement for experimental activities that use a patented invention. Are there any examples in Australia where the efforts of researchers have been hindered by the lack of such an exemption?
Request  8.1 What approaches or tests could be used to differentiate between inventions where the contribution of embedded software is trivial and inventions where the contribution of embedded software is genuinely deserving of patent protection? Should such tests be implemented in law or patent examination practices?
Request  9.1 How can transparency requirements for pay for delay settlements be implemented in a manner that retains effectiveness but minimises compliance cost? • Should there be public reporting of aggregated data? • How can the system adequately capture agreements that involve the transfer of non monetary benefits such as licences or transfer of rights?
Request  11.1 To what extent — in terms of incidence and costs — is trade marked metadata used in a way to confuse consumers? Is such a problem likely to get worse or better?
Request  11.2 To what extent and in what form does consumer confusion arise from the provision of wine and spirit geographical indications? Under what circumstances should wine and spirit geographical indications be amended or repealed? Who should make such decisions?
Request  12.1 Would extending essentially derived variety coverage to all plants reduce the potential for patent ‘sniping’ of varieties protected by Plant Breeder’s Rights? The Commission is also seeking feedback on the practicalities of developing and implementing a market–impact test to complement existing tests of essentially derived variety status.
Request  13.1 What would be the implications of repealing the Circuit Layout Act 1989 (Cth)? Are there better ways to provide circuit layout rights?
Request  14.1 Is there any evidence that grant back obligations or economic hold up are widespread problems in Australia? Is there a risk of these becoming problems in the future?
Request  16.1 What institutional and governance settings would best ensure that IP policy benefits from a policy champion and is guided by an overarching policy objective and an economywide perspective? Would vesting IP policy responsibility in a single department further these goals, and if so, which department would be best placed to balance the interests of rights holders and users, including follow on innovators? Are there any complementary or alternative measures that would help facilitate more integrated and evidence based IP policy making?
Request  16.2 Is there merit in establishing a clearer separation between policy and administrative functions for intellectual property, and if so, where should the dividing line lie? What mechanisms are available for transparently setting out the separation of IP policy and administration responsibilities?
Request  16.3 What features should be included in a model agreement covering intellectual property if one were to be adopted?
Request  17.1 How extensively have mechanisms such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty and patent prosecution highways been used to reduce the transaction costs of obtaining IP protection overseas? Have Australian businesses utilised opportunities for licensing through SourceIP? Are there other options that would facilitate and promote the licensing and transfer of intellectual property between Australia and other countries?
Request  18.1 Would changes to the jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court improve access to dispute resolution by small– and medium–sized enterprises? Should additional rules be introduced, such as caps on the amount of costs claimable in a case? What is the upper limit on damages claims the court should hear? Are there resourcing impediments to the proposed reforms to the Federal Circuit Court? Can greater use be made of cost orders in the Federal Court, including for discovery, to reduce costs further? Should additional Federal Court rules be introduced, such as caps on the amount of costs claimable in a case?