Major Australian patent reform

Australia’s “Raising the Bar” Bill was passed by the House of Representatives on 20 March 2012. The Bill must now receive the Governor General’s assent before becoming law. This is expected to happen in the coming weeks and will have an immediate impact on access to patented inventions for regulatory approvals and research. However, the majority of the other provisions have a commencement date 12 months from assent.

The main purpose of the patent law reform is to raise patentability standards in Australia, making it more difficult to obtain a valid patent here. Four key areas are addressed: inventive step, support, enablement and utility. Notably, a combination of prior art references will be able to be used to assert that an invention is obvious, there will be a European-type requirement for adequacy of support, and enablement and utility will be assessed more along US lines.

The new standards will apply to applications filed after the commencement date, and also to existing standard patent applications where examination has not been requested by the commencement date. Therefore, you may want to consider filing an Australian patent application early or entering the national phase early in Australia (prior to the commencement date of the new legislation) and requesting examination at the time of filing. Similarly, it is worth considering bringing forward examination requests to before the commencement date and doing this voluntarily if you have not yet been directed to request examination.

Contact: If you have any specific enquiries about the changes to the patent law in Australia, please contact Debra Tulloch or Paul Jones.