Wednesday, 16 October 2019
Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Productivity Commission Response Part 2 and Other Measures) Bill 2019; In Committee
by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 8758 together:
(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 3), omit "12 months", substitute "18 months".
(2) Page 2 (after line 12), after clause 3, add:
4 Review of the accessibility of patents
(1) The Minister must cause a review of the accessibility of patents for small and medium sized enterprises within 3 months of the commencement of this section.
(2) Without limiting the matters the review should consider, the persons conducting the review must examine:
(a) the cost of applications for patents; and
(b) processing times of patents; and
(c) advice provided by the Australian Government with respect to the patent application process; and
(d) awareness of the patent application process.
(3) The persons conducting the review must provide the Minister with a written report of the review within 12 months of the commencement of the review.
(4) The Minister must cause copies of the report to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the report is given to the Minister.
In speaking to those now, I would highlight to the chamber that we have recognised the need to address the issues that this bill has put forward. We did raise our concern about the lack of time that small-to-medium enterprises have in adjusting to these new arrangements, and we would like to see time in place for IP Australia to be able to work through issues with small business so that new arrangements can be put in place. We're grateful to the government for listening to our concerns in this regard.
I rise to indicate that the government will support the amendment moved by Senator Pratt on behalf of the opposition. We recognise that the patent system can be complex and difficult to access for small and medium businesses. The innovation patent system was intended to help address these complexities, but there are some improvements that need to be made. We agree with the intent of the opposition's amendments to review the accessibility of the patent system for small businesses when the innovation patent system is no longer available. The findings of the review will help support the work that is currently being done by IP Australia and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science to help small businesses understand and engage with the IP system. I thank the opposition for their constructive engagement on this issue and I recommend that the Senate accept this amendment.
I rise very briefly to indicate that the Greens will be supporting these amendments. I want to make it clear that stakeholders did raise with us significant concerns about the impact of this bill unamended, and particularly the phase-out of the innovation patent system. The government has, unfortunately, made a bit of a mess of these reforms to our intellectual property laws which, if implemented as originally presented to the Senate, would harm innovation, especially by small and medium businesses.
Question agreed to.
by leave—I move Centre Alliance amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 8738 together.
(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table items 2 and 3), omit the table items.
(2) Schedule 1, page 3 (line 1) to page 5 (line 11), to be opposed.
I reiterate what I said in my second reading speech—that there are many companies in South Australia, and presumably around the country, that are utilising the IPS scheme. They are using it for good purpose, which allows them to develop products and allows them to sell those products to make money. They employ a range of people and they export products. It is those people who do not want this IPS scheme abolished. It is companies. It is the very people that the Liberal-National coalition purport to represent who want this to stay. I know the Productivity Commission came out with a number that said there was a cost of $11 million to business in pursuing innovative patents. However, that's a choice of the commercial entities. That is their choice.
I asked businesses those questions when I was at a meeting in South Australia, in front of the minister, in front of IP Australia. I asked them whether it was a problem for them. No. It's a choice that they make. You are limiting choices of Australian businesses. You are shutting down a scheme that a number of companies rely on. I am sure that it's not just restricted to South Australian companies. I suspect it's nationwide. This is damaging and should not be permitted.
As I indicated in my summing-up speech in the second reading debate, the government does not accept the amendment proposed by Senator Patrick on behalf of Centre Alliance. The evidence available to the government indicates that some aspects of the innovation patent system are harming innovative businesses. It fails to incentivise innovation, particularly amongst small and medium enterprises, and it causes confusion and uncertainty.
The amendment proposed here would keep the innovation payment with all of those associated harms. It would also remove the proposed 'objects clause' from the bill. That would prevent the government from keeping its commitment to phasing out the innovation patents system and introducing an objects clause. Both these recommendations were accepted by the government in response to the Productivity Commission's review into intellectual property. I recommend the Senate does not support this amendment.
The Labor opposition is not supporting this amendment today. We recognise that this amendment would strike at the heart of the overall intent of the bill, which is to address the problem in relation to the low innovation threshold, which has proven more harmful than helpful, including for small to medium enterprises. We've seen a multitude of low-value patents covering everything from a pet bed to a pizza box that converts to a bib. This, in turn, has reduced the credibility that patents provide for attracting finance for commercialisation.
We've accepted that these are key issues with the current regime, and the amendments moved by Senator Patrick strike at the heart of some of the things that, with the government, we agree need to be addressed. We're concerned that we've only come some of the way in addressing the issues that this legislation has been brought before the chamber to address. We note that our amendments, which have been successful, will provide more time to address these issues, but we're very concerned that, on this government's watch, Australia's innovation ranking has fallen on the World Intellectual Property Organization's Global Innovation Index. We urge the government to address the need for greater support for Australian SMEs in protecting their intellectual property through the standard patent. Having said that, we affirm that we are opposing these amendments.
Senator Patrick had moved, by leave, two amendments together. Because amendment (2) on sheet 8738 opposed part of the bill, I put that question first—namely, that schedule 1 stand as printed. After the vote there is now no need to move amendment (1) on sheet 8738. With the indulgence of the chamber: there are now two procedural motions required to complete the committee's deliberations on the bill and I propose to move to that.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.