29 July 2016
Reporter: Barney Dixon

NZ/Aus patent processes could be scrapped

Two schemes that were heralded as the first step toward unifying patent examination processes across New Zealand and Australia could soon be scrapped.

New Zealand’s parliamentary commerce select committee recommended on 13 July that proposed Single Application Process (SAP) and Single Examination Process (SEP) schemes be dropped due to a “lack of benefits”.

The SAP and SEP schemes were suggested to unify patent examination processes, creating a European-like system and leading to a single trans-Tasman patent application process.

But in recent years, the initiative has been overshadowed by the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH), an attempt to share work and experiences between patent offices globally.

Recognising these advancements, the committee described the GPPH as a work-sharing initiative that achieves the benefits of both the SAP and SEP while precluding the significant cost to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ).

“Given the significant costs to IPONZ in implementing a SAP and SEP; the low likelihood that they would be used; and the lack of substantial benefits in terms of time and cost savings to New Zealand business, we consider that it is difficult to justify proceeding further with these initiatives” the committee said.

Gareth Dixon, principal at law firm Shelston IP, wrote in a client note that, “because the pilot scheme has never eventuated ... a definitive assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of the SAP/SEP is, at best, theoretical”.

“The Commerce Select Committee has, in effect, decided not to bother.”

IP Australia said in a statement that it is “now awaiting a decision on the recommendation from the New Zealand government”.

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