Patents Act changes
Changes made by the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Act 2012 relevant to the Patents Act 1990
Schedule 1 - Raising the quality of granted Patents
|Inventive and innovative step||Subsections 7(2) and 7(4) - removes the geographical limitation on the common general knowledge when assessing inventive step in a standard Patent application and innovative step in an innovation Patent. Subsection 7(3) - removes the requirement that prior art documents for inventive step be limited to only those documents that would have been 'ascertained, understood and regarded as relevant' by the skilled person. These amendments ensure that all information that was publicly available at the priority date of the claimed invention is taken into account and increase consistency between the standard set for inventive step in Australia and elsewhere.|
|Usefulness||Section 7A - inserts the requirement that a specific, substantial and credible use for the invention is disclosed in the Patent specification. These amendments will strengthen the test for usefulness and prevent the claiming of speculative inventions that would require further experimentation to put the invention into practice.|
|Provisional specification||Subsection 40(1) - raises the standard for disclosure in provisional specifications. A provisional application will only provide a valid priority date for an invention later claimed in a complete application if the provisional specification discloses the invention in a manner that is clear and complete enough for the invention to be performed by a person skilled in the relevant art. This sets a similar standard to that required for disclosure in a complete application.|
|Disclosure in Patent applications||Paragraph 40(2)(a) - replaces the full description requirement with the requirement that the specification discloses the invention in a manner which is clear enough and complete enough for the invention to be performed by a person skilled in the relevant art. This better aligns the Australian requirement for disclosure in a complete specification with requirements elsewhere and ensures that the description provides sufficient information to make the invention across the full width of the claims.|
|Fair basis||Subsection 40(3) - replaces 'fair basis' with the requirement that the claims are fully supported by the description. This better aligns the Australian standards for claim scope with overseas standards.|
|Priority dates||Subsection 43(2) - aligns the standard for disclosure in a priority document with the standard for disclosure in a complete specification by requiring that the priority document discloses the invention in a manner that is clear and complete enough for the invention to be performed by a person skilled in the relevant art. This ensures that an applicant cannot secure a priority date based on a speculative or incomplete disclosure. This is the same as the disclosure standard in a provisional application and aligns Australian standards for disclosure in priority documents with most other jurisdictions.|
|Preliminary Search and Opinion (PSO)||Section 43 - allows the Commissioner to conduct a PSO on a standard application. This will be similar to an international search and opinion and will provide applicants and the public with early information about the likely Patentability of inventions where no search and examination report is likely to be made available from another office. An applicant will also be able to request a PSO on a complete application.|
|Examination and re-examination of standard Patents||Sections 45, 98, 101G, 101M - expand the grounds considered during examination of a standard Patent application, a standard Patent and an innovation Patent, and during opposition of an innovation Patent, to include usefulness and prior use. This ensures that the Commissioner can examine on all of the substantive grounds available during opposition and court revocation proceedings.|
|Standard of proof||Sections 49, 60, 100A, 101, 101B, 101E, 101F, 101N - set the requirement that the higher standards of balance of probabilities is applied by the Commissioner when considering each of the substantive Patentability criteria during examination, opposition proceedings and re-examination of standard Patent applications, standard Patents and innovation Patents.|
|Amendments not allowable||Section 102 - prevents amendment of a complete specification to insert matter that extends beyond what was disclosed at the time of filing of the complete specification. This prevents a Patentee from gaining protection of an invention that was not adequately disclosed in the complete application when it was filed. This requirement will not apply to amendments to correct a clerical error or obvious mistake, or to include details of a micro-organism deposit under the Budapest Treaty. The amendment also provides for regulations to be made making any amendment, other than an amendment directed by the court under section 105, non-allowable when court proceedings are pending. Section 114 - provides a mechanism for dealing with situations where a non-allowable amendment is inadvertently allowed by the Commissioner. It provides for claims relying on such an amendment to be given the priority date prescribed by the Regulations. Generally this will be the date the amendment was made. Section 114A - specifies that, where a non-allowable amendment is inadvertently allowed, an objection of lack of inventive step cannot be taken to an invention claimed in the amendment specification in light of an invention disclosed in the application prior to amendment.|
|Amending definitions||Section 3 - inserts 'preliminary search and opinion' (PSO) into the list of definitions. Sections 10(1)(c), 35(1)(b), 36(1)(c), 52(2), 74(1), 74(3), 103(2), 106(1)(b), 106(4), 107(1)(b0, 107(4), 150(2), 151(2), 215(3), 223(2A)9b), 223(6A) amend existing references to the Commissioner being 'satisfied' to confirm that the standard of proof is the 'balance of probabilities'.|
|Application provisions||Raised examination standards, expanded examination grounds and the higher standard of proof will apply to:
Expanded re-examination grounds will apply to all standard Patent applications and standard and innovation Patents regardless of when the application was made or the Patent granted. The Commissioner will be able to conduct a preliminary search and opinion on any standard complete application filed on or after commencement. Similarly, an applicant will be able to request a PSO on any application filed on or after commencement.
The new standards for amendments will apply to requests to amend made on or after commencement relating to:
Schedule 2 - Free access to Patented inventions for regulatory approvals and research
|Regulatory use exemption||Section 119B - introduces an exemption from Patent infringement for activities undertaken for the purpose of obtaining information required for regulatory approval. This provides a regulatory use exemption for all technologies, with the exception of regulatory activities relating to pharmaceutical Patents, which are already exempt under section 119A.|
|Research exemption||Section 119C - introduces an exemption from Patent infringement for experimental activities relating to Patented inventions.
The exemption will apply to all research activities where the predominant purpose of those activities are to gain new knowledge, or test a supposition or principle about the invention or improve on, or modify the invention.
|Application provisions||The changes will apply to any acts for experimental or regulatory approval purposes done on or after the date of commencement.|
Schedule 3 - Reducing delays in resolution of Patent and Trade Mark applications
|Patent oppositions - amendments directed by courts||Section 105 - enables a court to consider and decide on any proposed amendments to a Patent application during an appeal from a decision of the Commissioner. This means that where an applicant has amended their application subsequent to the Commissioner's decision the court can consider the amended specification. Section 112A - consequential on changes to section 105 above. It specifies that only the Court can deal with amendments to an application during an appeal to the Court against a decision of the Commissioner relating to that application. This will prevent the same issues being dealt with by different decision makers. Section 26 - consequential amendment to include reference to amendments that are in contravention of new section 112A. The changes apply to amendments made on, before or after commencement if the Commissioner has not dealt with the amendments at commencement.|
|Patent oppositions - withdrawal of applications||Section 141 - allows the Commissioner to refuse an applicant's request for leave to withdraw their opposed Patent application. The Commissioner can then refuse withdrawal of an opposed application where the applicant has filed a divisional application claiming the same, or substantially the same, invention. This ensures that an applicant cannot defer resolution of an invention claimed in an opposed application by withdrawing the opposed application and continuing its prosecution as a divisional application. Section 224 - consequential amendment providing a right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a decision of the Commissioner to refuse leave to withdraw a Patent application under section 141. The changes apply to notice of withdrawal filed on or after commencement in respect of Patent applications made before, on or after commencement.|
|Patent oppositions - Commissioner's powers & sanctions of a failure to comply||Section 210 - introduces a new higher threshold test that must be satisfied before the Commissioner can exercise her powers to summon witnesses, or require the production of documents. This will permit the Commissioner to reject requests for her to exercise her powers where she believes that the material is of limited relevance to the proceedings. The changes clarify that the Commissioner's powers extend to entities outside of Australia, but only where that entity is a party to proceedings before the Commissioner. Section 210A - introduces new non-criminal sanction for non-compliance with an exercise of the Commissioner's powers under section 210. This provision gives the Commissioner flexibility to apply a sanction appropriate to the particular circumstances and to the person's role and interest in the proceedings. Section 61 - consequential amendment to include reference to new section 210A. This allows that refusal to grant a Patent may be used as sanction against a Patent applicant who is non-compliant with the Commissioner's requirements to appear as a witness. Sections 179 to 181 - repeals the criminal sanctions for failure to comply with a summons, a refusal to give evidence before the Commissioner, or failure to produce documents required by the Commissioner; consequential to new section 210A. The changes apply to in relation to powers exercised by the Commissioner on or after commencement.|
|Divisional applications - standard Patents||Section 79B - allows for the Patent Regulations 1991 to prescribe additional requirements for filing a divisional application. These will include restricting the time of filing of divisionals to within 3 months of acceptance of the parent and restricting conversion of an application into a divisional to within 3 months of acceptance of the parent or no later than acceptance of the divisional. This ensures the divisional applications cannot be filed or converted late in opposition proceedings. The changes apply to divisional applications made on or after commencement.|
|Divisional applications - innovation Patents||Section 79C - allows for the Patent Regulations 1991 to prescribe particulars that are required when a divisional innovation application is filed, including that details about the parent be provided. This promotes transparency. The changes apply to divisional applications made on or after commencement.|
Schedule 4 - Assisting the operations of the IP profession
|Registration of Patent attorneys - for individuals & companies||Section 198 - introduces provisions for a company to be registered as a Patent attorney. This will give greater flexibility to Patent attorneys by allowing them to practise through a corporate structure.The Patent Regulations 1991 will specify additional registration requirements for both individual and incorporated Patent attorneys. A key requirement for a company registered as a Patent attorney is that a director of the company must be a registered Patent attorney. Consequential changes are also made to ensure that certain registration requirements for individuals will continue to only apply to natural persons. Section 132 - ensures that the protection from liability that section 132 provides to registered Patent attorneys is not limited to natural persons.|
|Client-attorney privilege||Section 200 - allows for the client-attorney privilege to cover communications between clients and foreign intellectual property professionals who are authorised to perform work similar to the work done by their Australian counterparts.|
|Disclosure of information to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC)||Section 183 - allows the Designated Manager (currently the Director General of IP Australia) to provide information about incorporated Patent attorneys to ASIC. The information must be relevant to the functions of ASIC, such as allegations of fraud on the part of the incorporated Patent attorney or company.|
|Offences & sanctions under the Patents Act 1990||Section 201 - removes the prohibition on a company from acting or describing itself as a Patent attorney. It continues to be an offence for a company to carry on a business, practice or act as a Patent attorney, or Patent agent, if it is not registered as an attorney. The existing offence provisions for individuals and partnerships have been re-worded to make them clearer.
Section 201A - makes consequential changes to the definition of carry on a business, practices or acting as a Patent attorney to allow for the registration of companies as Patent attorneys under section 198. It also introduces the concept of 'Patents work' to allow for the changes to client-attorney privilege under section 200. Section 201B - introduces sanctions for incorporated Patent attorneys that fail to meet their registration requirements to have a registered Patent attorney director. It is intended to prevent the provision of Patent services where no qualified attorney is in charge. The scheme also provides powers for the Designated Manager to appoint a Patent attorney director to an incorporated Patent attorney, where the company has lost its Patent attorney director in unforseen circumstances. Section 202B - introduces a new offence for an incorporated Patent attorney or incorporated legal practice, where an employee or member prepares a Patent specification, or associated document, without either being a registered Patent attorney or under the supervision or instruction of an individual who is a registered Patent attorney. Section 203 - introduces a sanction to prevent registered Patent attorneys from acting or describing themselves as Patent attorneys unless an individual Patent attorney is physically present at the office and managing the Patents work.
|Penalties for offences under the Patents Act 1990||Changes have been made to a number of sections to express penalty amounts in 'penalty units' rather than as dollar amounts. Currently, section 4AA of the Crimes Act 1914 defines a 'penalty unit' as being AU$110.00. The updated sections are: 177, 178, 182, 201, 201B, 202, 202B and 203.|
|Assessing the conduct of Patent attorneys||Section 228 - clarifies that registered Patent attorneys are legally bound by professional standards set by the Professional Standards Board for Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys (PSB). The Patent Regulations 1991 will refer to the required professional standards as a Code of Conduct, which may be updated from time to time.|
|Updating defined phrases||Section 3 - inserts a number of phrases to the list of definitions. These phrases are necessary for the changes to the Patents Act 1990 that are mentioned above. Schedule 1 - inserts definitions for the new phrases listed in section 3. The new definitions are for: 'company', 'director', 'incorporated legal practice', 'incorporated Patent attorney', 'Patent attorney director', 'Patents work', 'related company group' and 'intellectual property advice'.|
Schedule 5 - Improving mechanisms for Trade Mark and Copyright enforcement
Schedule 5 is not applicable to thePatents Act 1990.
Schedule 6 - Simplifying the IP system
|Extension of secret use & the grace period||Section 9 - allows that any use of the invention, within Australia, within 12 months of the filing of a complete application claiming the invention is not taken to be 'secret use'. The change applies to use of the invention on or after commencement. Section 24 - provides that the 'grace period' applies for not only the publication or use of the invention by the Patentee but also for circumstances where the Patentee discloses work done, or a prototype that led directly to their invention within the prescribed period. The Patent Regulations 1991 will continue to specify that, for the 'grace period' to apply, a complete application must be filed within 12 months of the public disclosure of information. The change applies to information made available on or after commencement.|
|Omnibus claims||Section 40 - prevents the use of omnibus claims except where the invention can only be defined by reference to a specific detail in the specification. For example, where reference to a spectroscopic profile or reference to a specific feature in a figure or drawing is the only way of defining the invention.
The change applies to applications where the request for examination was filed on or after commencement.
|Disclosure in basic applications||Section 43AA - clarifies the requirements for making basic applications (an application made in a Convention country) available to the Commissioner and the circumstances in which the Commissioner will give account to the disclosures in those documents. These changes enable applicants to meet the Commissioner's requirements through the use of the WIPO Digital Access Service. Section 8 - consequential repeal of section 8 due to new section 43AA.|
|Examinations & search results - for both standard Patents and innovation Patents||Section 45 - allows the Commissioner to not examine and report on a PCT application where formality requirements prescribed in the Patent Regulations 1991 have not been met. The changes also repeal a requirement for the Patent applicant to notify the Commissioner of certain Patentability searches.
The change applies to applications made on or after commencement. Sections 46 to 48 - repeal modified examination and deferral of examination. Section 101D - repeal the requirement for innovation Patentees to inform the Commissioner of certain Patentability searches. Section 102 - consequential repeal of sanction for non-compliance with section 45 and 101D, which have also been repealed. Section 142 - consequential repeal of provisions for the lapsing of applications where examination has been deferred, due to repeal of section 46.
|PCT & Convention applications||Sections 29A, 29B, 30, 38, 43, 56A and 197AA - restructures the Patents Act 1990 to co-locate provisions for PCT and Convention applications with the equivalent provisions for standard applications. The changes also clarify where aspects of the application process is governed by the Patent Regulations 1991. This results in the existing substantive requirements for complete applications being a more coherent and transparent legislative package that is easier for users to navigate. Section 43 - provides that an earlier application, made in another convention country, must be disregarded if it was made within the prescribed period and has been withdrawn, abandoned or refused, without becoming open for public inspection or serving as a basis for claiming priority. The Patent Regulations 1991 will specify that the prescribed period is the period more than 12 months before the filing date of the PCT or Convention application from which the applicant wishes to claim priority. The change applies to applications made on or after commencement. Section 53 - clarifies that the existing requirement for the Commissioner to publish prescribed information about the applicant and the application in the Official Journal does not apply to PCT applications. The Patent Regulations 1991 will specify what information about PCT applications is to be published. Section 55 - consequential amendment to include reference to section 56A. Section 57 - clarifies that provisions relating to the effect of publication of a complete specification, also applies to PCT applications. The changes also update references to include section 56A. Sections 141 and 142 - clarifies that the Patent Regulations 1991 specify the circumstances in which PCT applications are taken to be withdrawn, or to have lapsed. Section 223 - clarifies that the provision relating to extensions of time where there has been an error or omission by the Patent Office, also applies to PCT applications in respect of error or omissions relating to the PCT receiving office or International Bureau of WIPO. The Patent Regulations 1991 will specify any additional requirements for extensions of time. Chapter 8 - repeals existing provisions for PCT and Convention applications to allow for the restructuring of the Patents Act 1990. These provisions have been re-enacted and co-located with provisions dealing with standard applications. Section 10 - consequential repeal of reference to Chapter 8 due to repeal of entirety of Chapter 8 provisions.|
|Patent ownership & resolving disputes||Section 22A - clarifies that a Patent is not invalid merely because the Patent was granted to a person who was not entitled to it. Section 32 - restricts section 32 to the settling of disputes, including ownership disputes, between jointly named Patent applicants. The changes also clarify that the Commissioner may make a declaration, regarding the correctly entitled owner, whether or not the application is lapsed.
The change applies to disputes commenced on or after commencement. Section 36 - restricts section 36 to the settling of ownership disputes between Patent applicants and other interested parties. The changes give the Commissioner the discretionary power to direct in whose name, or names, the application is to proceed. The section will apply at any time until the granting of the Patent. This permits the resolution of entitlement issues without forcing parties into opposition proceedings. The change applies to any declarations made by the Commissioner in respect of ownership on or after commencement.
Section 138 - provides that a court must not revoke a Patent for incorrect entitlement unless it is just and equitable to do so in all circumstances.
The change applies to orders made on or after commencement.
|Acceptance & Revocation||Sections 49 and 49A - gives the Commissioner the discretion whether to allow a request to postpone acceptance or not. The Commissioner will also have the discretion to postpone acceptance, even if the applicant has not requested it. For example, where there is a dispute about ownership of a Patent application underway, it may be more appropriate to postpone acceptance and then grant the Patent to the correctly entitled person once the dispute is resolved. Section 50A - gives the Commissioner the discretion to revoke acceptance of an application where an administrative error has resulted in acceptance of an application that should not have been accepted. Questions about the substantive quality of an accepted application will continue to be dealt with through provisions for re-examination or opposition. The change applies to applications accepted on or after commencement. Section 51 - consequential amendment clarifying that a decision to revoke acceptance under new section 50A is not appealable to the Federal Court. Section 101EA - gives the Commissioner the discretion to revoke a decision to certify an innovation Patent where the certificate of examination should not have been issued. Where certification is revoked the Commissioner will be able to amend the Register under new section 191A to remove details of the innovation Patent from the Register. The change applies to innovation Patents certified on or after commencement.|
|Granting of Patents & rectification of the Register||Section 61 - alters the process for granting a Patent. Particulars of the Patent will be entered into the Register of Patents. Patents will no longer be affixed with a seal. Section 62 - replaces the process for granting an innovation Patent with a process for entering the particulars of the grant in the Register of Patents. Innovation Patents will no longer be affixed with a seal. Sections 66, 79C, 81 and 135 - consequential amendments to remove references to 'seal' or 'sealed' and replace them with 'grant' or 'granted'. Changes also repeal provisions related to the sealing of a duplicate Patent. Section 105 - consequential amendment to remove references to 'the Patent' as being a physical document. The new process for granting a Patent is the entry of particulars in the Register of Patents under sections 61 and 62. Section 191A - gives the Commissioner the power to declare who owns a Patent and to amend the Register to correct an error or omission to correct ownership details. Section 215 - consequential amendment to allow for details in the Register of Patents to be changed when a Patentee dies. The changes apply to Patents granted on or after commencement.|
|Non-infringement declarations||Section 125 - clarifies that a person seeking a declaration need not have sought, or been granted, a Patent themselves in order to utilise the provision. The changes also extend the cover of a declaration to past, present and future acts. Non-infringement declarations also may only be sought once the respondent's standard Patent has been granted, or innovation Patent certified. Section 126 - allows an applicant for a non-infringement declaration to challenge the validity and seek revocation of the respondent's Patent in the same proceedings. This will enable the courts to resolve all aspects of a Patent dispute more efficiently. The changes also provide the court with the discretion to award costs. Section 127 - consequential amendment to remove references that are made redundant by amendments to section 125. The changes apply to applications for non-infringement declarations made on or after commencement.|
|Review of decisions||Section 224 - provides for merits review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for a decision of the Commissioner to grant or refuse inspection or production of documents that are not Open to Public Inspection. Also consequential amendments to references to other sections of the Patents Act 1990 that have been amended or repealed. Section 227 - consequential amendment to references to other sections of the Patents Act 1990 that have been amended or repealed.|
|Updating defined phrases Removal of Patent process flowchart & Treaty texts Patent Office & sub-offices OPI documents||Section 3 - revises definitions for phrases listed in section 3. Repeals definitions for: 'foreign Patent office', 'modified examination' and 'sealed'. Schedule 1 - revises definitions for phrases listed in schedule 1. These definitions are for: 'Budapest Treaty', 'Convention application', 'convention country', 'examination', 'foreign Patent office', 'international filing date', 'modified examination', 'PCT application', 'prior art base' and 'sealed'. Section 4 - removes the flowchart setting out the steps for getting a Patent. The flowchart is out of date and has been superseded by information on IP Australia's website. Section 228 - removes the requirement that the full text of certain treaties be set out in the Patents Regulations 1991. The Patent Regulations 1991 will refer to internet addresses where authoritative versions of the Treaty texts may be sourced. Section 205 - removes the requirement that there must be a sub-office of the Patents Office in each State. Provides flexibility to the Commissioner to discontinue sub-offices in the future when e-business channels are sufficiently reliable and having sub-offices becomes redundant. Section 214 - consequential amendment which clarifies that there need not necessarily be sub-offices. Changes also clarify that 'prescribed means' is not limited to filing only at a sub-office but applies more generally and includes filing at the Patents Office. Section 222A - consequential amendment which clarifies that there need not necessarily be sub-offices. Section 226 - clarifies the exemption from Copyright infringement for certain documents in certain circumstances. Extends the Copyright exemption to the reproduction of the documents in a two dimensional form and communicating the document to the public. This will enable IP Australia to make most documents associated with a Patent case file available to the public via the internet.|
|Regulation making powers||Section 228 - changes the regulation making powers to allow for the changes to the Patents Act 1990 that are mentioned above.|
- Consultation papers for IP reforms
- Consultation papers for IP regulations
- Trade Mark Act changes
- Designs Act changes
- Plant Breeder's Rights Act changes
- Copyright Act changes
Last Updated: 18/1/2013