Last updated: 
23 November 2020

We work with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a range of international agencies to build and strengthen the intellectual property (IP) rights system.

Some of the activities we are involved in include:

WIPO maintains a directory of international IP offices.

Asia-Pacific cooperation

We are a key participant in a range of development cooperation activities focused on capacity building in the Asia-Pacific region.

Our most significant engagement in the region is a comprehensive online patent examination training program for overseas IP offices, known as the Regional Patent Examination Training (RPET) program. RPET is funded under the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) Economic Cooperation Work program and with support from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

IP Australia also partners with WIPO to deliver development cooperation in other areas. In recent years, the focus of our cooperation work with WIPO has been delivered under the Australia - WIPO Funds in Trust (FIT) program. The FIT program forms part of the Australian Government’s aid for trade strategy, which aims to foster sustainable economic growth and prosperity and reduce poverty in the Indo-Pacific region.  More information on Australia’s aid for trade strategy is available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

Bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements

Australia has negotiated bilateral and plurilateral regional trade agreements, which include IP chapters, with several of its major trading partners. These free trade agreements (FTAs) facilitate trade and investment by reducing and/or eliminating tariffs and other barriers to trade.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is the lead agency managing trade agreements in Australia and these agreements are available by their website. Australia takes a comprehensive approach to negotiating free trade agreements and intellectual property is often one of the topics included.

IP Australia advises on IP issues relating to patents, trade marks, designs and plant breeder's rights as part of negotiating a free trade agreement.

PCT cooperation with other IP offices

IP Australia has strong bilateral relationships with a number of IP offices globally. We work collaboratively with these offices to streamline the IP system for the benefit of users. In some cases this results in a formal working arrangement, such as for patent applications made under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

Arrangement with the USPTO

On 24 September 2014 we signed an updated Memorandum of Understanding with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) about the work that we conduct for them under the PCT.

Under this arrangement, we will act as an International Searching Authority (ISA) and International Preliminary Examining Authority (IPEA) on up to 250 PCT applications per fiscal quarter provided the application is filed at the receiving office of the USPTO, and the applicant selects Australia as the ISA/IPEA.

Arrangements with other IP offices

IP Australia also acts as an ISA/IPEA for a number of other developed offices including:

  • the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), under reciprocal arrangements, and;
  • the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ).

We also act as an ISA/IPEA by arrangement with IP offices from developing countries, such as the Department of Intellectual Property in Thailand.

These arrangements provide more choice for applicants under the PCT.

Further information about the filing of international applications under the PCT is available from the WIPO website.

Multilateral IP treaties

As a World Trade Organization member, Australia is a party to the Agreement of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement). TRIPS sets out a number of general principles, contains minimum standards on intellectual property and deals with enforcement procedures.

Most intellectual property treaties are developed through WIPO. Australia is a signatory to many of the 26 multilateral treaties that WIPO administers. These treaties can be divided into four general categories:

Further detail on the treaties and agreements administered by the WIPO can be found on the WIPO website.

Australia is also a member of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) whose mission is to provide and promote an effective system of plant variety protection internationally.

IP Australia actively contributes to WIPO meetings and initiatives such as the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions (the IGC), the PCT Working Group, the Working Group of the Madrid Union and the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP). 

Traditional knowledge, genetic resources and traditional cultural expressions

In October 2000, WIPO established the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions (the IGC).

The objectives of the IGC are to:

  • develop policy, currently focused on the negotiations of international instruments and
  • build the capacity of Indigenous Peoples and local communities eg. documentation of knowledge and culture, IP management.

The work of the IGC will not necessarily result in new multilateral treaties. The General Assembly of WIPO must decide whether or not to bring together a Diplomatic Conference to conclude a treaty.

The Australian government and Indigenous representatives play an active role in these negotiations.  

Vancouver group

In 2008, with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), the Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom (UKIPO) and IP Australia established a number of collaborative projects under the title of the Vancouver Group.

The Vancouver Group aims to:

  • share information and experiences on common issues and areas relevant to managing a mid-sized national IP office, and
  • contribute to a more effective multilateral approach to work sharing.

Areas of focus

Mutual Exploitation: The Vancouver Group is investigating opportunities to reduce the duplication of patents-related work between the offices. The work of the Mutual Exploitation initiative is guided by eight principles, which have been in place since June 2009.

Mutual Exploitation relies on access to high-quality search and examination information of other offices.

The Vancouver Group worked in partnership with WIPO to develop a system called Centralized Access to Search and Examination (WIPO CASE). WIPO CASE is a single portal through which patent examiners can access the search and examination information from other participating offices. WIPO CASE membership is open to any IP office, and the number of participating offices is increasing. For more information on WIPO CASE, visit the WIPO website.

Quality benchmarking and review: The Vancouver Group has worked to build trust and confidence in one another’s work through benchmarking studies and comparison of quality review procedures.  Our offices have developed the  Vancouver Group Core Quality Standards and Attributes, a set of quality principles that are consistent with the quality standards of the three offices.

Economic Research: The Economic Research initiative provides an opportunity for IP offices to improve the quality of economic and analytical research through cooperation, information sharing and sharing of best-practice principles.

Business Performance Reporting: Business Performance Reporting aims to encourage the sharing of experiences and approaches on the collection, analysis and use of business performance measures. This information allows for prudent management of organisational and strategic objectives.

Australia-New Zealand Single economic market

Under the 2009 Single Economic Market (SEM) agenda, the New Zealand and Australian Governments agreed on a work joint work programme to remove regulatory barriers to firms operating in both markets. The aim is to create a more seamless trans-Tasman business environment.

The key intellectual property outcome under the SEM agenda was the development of a single regulatory framework for patent attorneys in Australia and New Zealand.

Implementation of the regulatory framework required enabling legislation in both countries. The Australian Parliament passed legislation in 2015 (the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act 2015) to allow for the regulatory regime. The Patents (Trans-Tasman Patent Attorneys and Other Matters) Act 2016 allowing for the regime in New Zealand was passed by the New Zealand Parliament in November 2016. The joint regime commenced on 24 February 2017.

The majority of Australian and New Zealand patent attorneys were already registered in both countries prior to commencement. The joint regime provides the same accreditation and professional standards in both countries, saving time, money and effort for the profession as a whole.

In March 2013, Australia and New Zealand signed a bilateral arrangement to support the trans-Tasman patent attorney regime. The arrangement is available below and sets out how the regime is to be implemented in both countries.

The SEM IP outcomes also included a single patent application process and a single examination process. On 13 July 2016, the New Zealand Parliament’s Commerce Select Committee recommended to the New Zealand Parliament that amendments to the Patents Act 2013 should not be enacted to facilitate the implementation of the single application and examination processes for patents. The New Zealand Government has since agreed not to continue with these initiatives as result of the Select Committee’s recommendation. IP Australia and IPONZ are therefore no longer working on the SAP and SEP initiatives.

More information

Examination under the Global Patent Prosecution Highway

You may request accelerated examination in one office based on the allowance of at least one claim in a corresponding application in another office via The Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH). This can include work carried out under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

The Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH) agreement is an extension of the original Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot giving applicants access to a range of offices worldwide. The extension of the PPH program is part of our continued focus on strengthening international cooperation between overseas patent offices and ensuring maximum work-sharing potential.

Overseas applications can be based on first filing in another Office, such as France, provided that both the Australian and overseas applications have the same priority date.

We will continue to evaluate the results of the GPPH program with the participating offices to determine if and how the program should be fully implemented.

The GPPH program is not a mechanism for requesting expedited examination of an AU application where IP Australia was the International Searching Authority (ISA) or International Preliminary Examination Authority and the PCT application is an Australian PCT application. Instead, you should consider the routine request for expedited examination

Global Patent Prosecution Highway requests to IP Australia

Global Patent Prosecution Highway requests to participating offices

More information on Global Patent Prosecution Highway Requests to participating offices is available on their respective websites.

Additional information on the Global Patent Prosecution Highway is available on the GPPH portal hosted by the Japanese Patent Office.

Examination under the IP Australia-European Patent Office Patent Prosecution Highway

The IP Australia-European Patent Office Patent Prosecution Highway (IP Australia-EPO PPH) is a pilot program between us and the European Patent Office (EPO). This program leverages fast-track patent examination procedures already available from us and the EPO to allow applicants to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently.

Under the IP Australia-EPO PPH pilot applicants are entitled to request expedited examination for Australian (AU) application in instances where an associated application has been examined by the EPO and where at least one claim has been determined to be patentable/allowable.

The IP Australia-EPO PPH pilot program covers both Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) and Paris Route applications.

The IP Australia-EPO PPH program is not a mechanism for requesting expedited examination of an AU application where we were the ISA or IPEA and the PCT application is an Australian PCT application. You may instead consider requesting conventional expedited examination.

The pilot is intended to be trialled for a period of three years until 30 June 2019. After this, the results of the program will be evaluated to determine if and how the program should be fully implemented after the trial.

IP Australia-European Patent Office Patent Prosecution Highway Requests to IP Australia