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IP Australia Director General's review

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IP Australia’s vision is to create a world-leading intellectual property (IP) system building prosperity for Australia. The vision is supported by our corporate plan, which outlines the steps we will take to ensure we deliver on our commitments to customers and stakeholders.

Our primary objective is to continue to administer the IP system efficiently and optimise its operation to support Australia’s economic growth. An effective IP system creates a secure environment for investment in innovation and enables firms to build brand value and capture market share. Importantly, the patents system also encourages the disclosure of inventions and the diffusion of knowledge and technology across the economy.

IP Australia also provides policy advice to government on IP issues, undertakes IP education and awareness-building initiatives and represents Australian interests in international IP activities. Highlights of our work in 2015–16 include supporting the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Australia’s IP arrangements; focusing on IP measures to support the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda; supporting Australian businesses seeking to enter the Chinese market; and continuing to upgrade and renew both our rights management processing and customer-focused ICT systems.

Key achievements

Policy

In 2015–16, IP Australia provided substantial input to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into IP arrangements in Australia. The commission is considering the impact of the IP system on trade, investment, innovation and competition in the economy. In particular, it is examining whether Australia’s current IP arrangements provide an appropriate balance between facilitating access to ideas and products on the one hand, and encouraging innovation, investment and the production of creative works on the other. The final report of the inquiry is expected to be handed to the Australian Government in September 2016 and will undoubtedly make recommendations that affect aspects of the work we undertake.

In response to the High Court’s decision in D’Arcy v Myriad Genetics Inc., in October 2015, IP Australia revised its patent examination guidelines in consultation with customers and stakeholders. The revised guidelines implement the High Court’s decision that isolated gene sequences are not patentable. Another relevant court decision during the year was the Federal Court’s ruling in Commissioner of Patents v RPL Central Pty Ltd, which upheld the decision of the Commissioner of Patents and provided further clarification of the law for assessing the patentability of business methods.

Progress with the Single Economic Market initiative with New Zealand during the year included work on the necessary regulations to implement a single trans-Tasman regulatory regime for patent attorneys. The new regime is schedule to come into effect in early 2017.

More generally, we contributed to a range of IP policy advice, from technical amendments to our legislation to analysis of the use of the IP system by various industry sectors.

National Innovation and Science Agenda

In 2015–16, we supported the National Innovation and Science Agenda with a number of projects. Our contribution included an IP Toolkit for Collaboration (ipaustralia.gov.au/understanding-ip/commercialise-your-ip/ip-toolkit-collaboration), which we developed with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and launched on 10 September 2015. The IP Toolkit is an online resource intended to facilitate collaboration between researchers and the business community. We also launched Source IP (sourceip.ipaustralia.gov.au) on 23 November 2015, an online marketplace designed to connect the business community with IP generated from public sector research agencies and universities.

During 2015–16, we also continued to seek ways to use data to the benefit of our customers and other stakeholders. We recently expanded the range of some of our current services to provide increased support, particularly for universities and publicly funded research organisations. In particular, our Patent Analytics Hub and IP Government Open Data (IPGOD) projects seek to make our IP data accessible, promoting the creation of new and innovative products and services, and better use of publicly funded resources.

International engagement

In 2015–16, IP Australia was active in multilateral and bilateral IP forums and continued to undertake capacity-building activities with other IP offices, especially those in our region. Our Regional Patent Examination Training programme won a silver award overall and took out the innovation award at the annual Institute of Public Administration Australia Prime Minister’s awards for Public Sector Excellence.

At the World Intellectual Property Organization, Australia took over the chairing role of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions.

IP Counsellor to China

In 2015–16, IP Australia announced the appointment of an Australian IP Counsellor to China to support Australian businesses seeking to operate in China. This was a new venture for us and is the first time we will post a staff member overseas as part of a diplomatic mission. The intention of the posting, to be based at the Australian Embassy in Beijing, is to provide IP expertise and support to Australian businesses in China or those seeking to enter the Chinese market. The IP Counsellor will work with Austrade and the Australian Business Chamber in China and will liaise with Chinese IP agencies, including the Chinese Patent Office and the Chinese Trade Mark Office.

Data strategy

In 2015–16, IP Australia conducted a review of its data holdings and controls, and launched its first comprehensive data strategy—Data matters. The strategy aims to strengthen our approach as an agency to the governance, quality management, warehousing and development of more than 100 years of IP data. Actions have been mapped over the coming two years to use our data holdings to better understand our productivity, staff and stakeholders, support well-informed and timely decision-making and keep pace with a dynamic technology landscape.

Technology

ICT systems are central to our IP rights management work and to customer engagement, as online transactions now account for around 97 per cent of all our customer transactions. In 2015–16, IP Australia continued to modernise and improve its business systems and processing environment in line with the Digital Transformation Office agenda. Based on extensive customer research, we redesigned and relaunched our website and began the staged introduction of an online ‘virtual assistant’ using cognitive computing technology to better assist our customers 24/7. This work will progressively deliver a more agile business environment that captures efficiencies and improves service delivery.

Of particular note in 2016, we completed the build of the first component of a large, multi-year information technology project called the Rights In One (RIO) Program. This work is a major undertaking to build a new system, which will ultimately manage our rights administration workflow across patents, trade marks, designs and plant breeder’s rights. It will allow us to streamline our ICT operations and retire a range of outdated legacy systems, thus delivering efficiencies and enhancing productivity.