New Zealand Law Society - “Flurry” of proposed amendments to intellectual property laws cause concern

“Flurry” of proposed amendments to intellectual property laws cause concern

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Proposed changes to the intellectual property regulatory regime are not fair to New Zealand patent attorneys, IP lawyers warn.

"There's been a real flurry" of IP-related issues "come on to the table recently," says Corinne Cole, AJ Park partner and President of the New Zealand Institute of Patent Attorneys (NZIPA).

Ms Cole says the NZIPA – which will belatedly celebrate World IP Day (26 April) next week – has responded to several proposed reforms of New Zealand's intellectual property laws in the months since she took office in November 2015.

Of primary concern is the Patents (Trans-Tasman Patent Attorneys and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, which would introduce a single patent application process (SAP) and single patent examination process (SEP) with Australia, and would establish a joint registration regime for New Zealand and Australian patent attorneys.

Joint regulation would increase barriers for New Zealand lawyers wanting to specialise in intellectual property, which would in turn impact on the ability of New Zealand firms to effectively compete with their Australian counterparts Ms Cole says.

She says New Zealand IP lawyers would be subject to additional training, compliance and registration costs, while the costs for Australian patent attorneys would not change.

"We would support a law change that was of mutual benefit," Ms Cole says.

"But all the benefit would be to Australia. The Australian regime wouldn't have to change, only New Zealand's – at increased cost to practitioners.

"The proposed amendment is not in New Zealand's favour."

Ms Cole says New Zealand and Australia also have different legislation and case law governing the protection of patents, which would create difficulties for a single trans-Tasman patent application and examination processes.

The New Zealand Law Society shared some of the NZIPA's concerns in its submission on the proposed joint registration system, noting that increased costs on New Zealand trainee patent attorneys could risk them moving permanently to Australia.

Also on the NZIPA's radar is the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Amendment Bill which Ms Cole says is set to "finally" come into force, after lobbying by the wine industry.

The GI law would have implications for regional wine-makers, who would be allowed to exclusively market their produce by reference to the geographical area it comes from – similar to how "Champagne" legally refers only to wine from a certain part of France, not all carbonated wine.

And compliance with the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement will require further amendments to intellectual property laws if it proceeds, Ms Cole says.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Paul Goldsmith acknowledged World IP Day 2016 on Tuesday, an international initiative that "celebrates the role intellectual property plays in fostering human innovation and creativity".

"In our increasingly knowledge-driven economy, intellectual property is of growing importance to New Zealand businesses," says Mr Goldsmith.

"Every year around 30,000 trade mark, patent, design and plant variety rights applications are made by individuals and businesses to the Intellectual Property Office (IPONZ)."

The Creative Sector Study, led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, is currently underway to gain a better understanding of how the creative sector interacts with the copyright and designs regimes in the context of a rapidly changing technological landscape, Minister Goldsmith says.