Government Review of Intellectual Property accessibility for small and medium enterprises (SMEs)

The Federal Government has just announced the launch of a review into Australia’s patents system which aims to specifically examine the accessibility of Intellectual Property for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The accessibility review was mandated by the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Productivity Commission Response Part 2 and Other Measures) Act 2020 which commenced earlier this year. In addition to provisions to phase out the innovation patent system, the new legislation requires the accessibility review to include considerations of: the cost of applications for patents, processing times of patents, advice provided by the Australian Government with respect to the patent application process, and awareness of the patent application process. The review must be completed within 12 months of commencement and so we should expect an outcome this time next year.

Despite the phasing out of the innovation patent system, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews says: “The aim of this review is to make sure our patents system best supports the needs of SMEs, so Australian businesses can protect their inventions and operate with confidence in Australian markets and abroad”. SMEs who use or are considering using the patent system in Australia and overseas, interested stakeholders and members of the public are encouraged to provide submissions for consideration.

Emeritus Professor Raoul Mortley AO will lead the review supported by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. Professor Mortley is former Vice-Chancellor at Bond University and Newcastle University and a former Chair of the Professional Standards Board for Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys, former Chair of the Vice Chancellors’ Intellectual Property Committee, and is a current board member of Innovation and Science Australia.

The review is one of a number of initiatives to be rolled out in the near future to improve Australia’s intellectual property system. Other initiatives include an SME case management service, the SME fast track service, a dedicated outreach program and an online portal.

The Ministerial Media Release can be viewed here. IP Australia has recently published a Factsheet providing guidance on the additional initiatives, explaining the following:

  • SME case management – IP Australia case manager support for Australian SMEs through the patent application process and support for internationally expedited applications, to help get protection in their target markets.
  • SME fast track – continued access to IP Australia’s fast track examination pathway where a first report is required within 8 weeks. 
  • SME dedicated outreach program – SME education services as well as support the diversified IP strategies required throughout the business lifecycle for regional areas.
  • SME portal – a purpose-built online platform to support SMEs offering SMEs tailored products and services, 24/7 assistance, industry advice, an IP portfolio management tool, and information on support available from other Government departments.

IP Australia’s Factsheet can be viewed here.

Mary Munroe, Principal

Dr Mary Munroe, Former POF Attorney

BSc(Hons), PhD, GDipIP

Mary is an Irish, UK and European qualified patent attorney with over a decade’s experience in IP. She is also a qualified Irish and Community trademark and design attorney (EU), and an Australian and New Zealand patent attorney.