Intellectual property and innovation law


We conduct cutting-edge, real-world research in law and technology. Our research staff and students play a critical role in shaping public policy through research, education, community service and public policy engagement.

We have four research areas of concentration.

International trade

We undertake research in the global governance of intellectual property and innovation law. We consider the role played by international organisations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization and other multilateral bodies.

We evaluate bilateral agreements between Australia and trading partners including:

  • Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA)
  • Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA)
  • Japan-Australian Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA)
  • China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (CHAFTA).

We also explore the rise of regional trade agreements, such as:

  • Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
  • Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
  • Trade in Services Agreement (TISA).

Intellectual property

We are a leading focal point for research in intellectual property in the Pacific Rim, considering the role of Australian intellectual property in the Asia-Pacific Region, and the wider world. We have undertaken significant theoretical and empirical research in copyright law and related rights, and we've also charted trademark law, consumer rights, and competition policy. Our research team has explored the relationship between patent law, scientific progress and innovation policy, and has investigated confidential information and trade secrets.

Media and communications law

Our research in media and communications law considers free speech, privacy and the regulation of media content. We're also interested in intermediary liability. We've also conducted research in the regulation of communications, and we've investigated media ownership, telecommunications regulation, internet access, broadband policy and network neutrality.

Innovation law and policy

Our research considers the role of innovation law and policy. In particular, we explore the regulation of emerging technologies in respect of information technology, 3D printing, clean technology, medicine, biotechnology, neuroscience, and robotics. We're particularly interested in open models of innovation, and we engage in research in the Creative Commons, open licensing and the sharing economy.


Our research expertise is focused across several aspects of intellectual property and innovation law. Our researchers collaborate with other IP and cross-disciplinary experts to achieve cutting-edge research outcomes.

International trade

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: intellectual property and trade

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a sweeping trade agreement, covering a dozen countries across the Pacific Rim, including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and a number of Latin American and Asia-Pacific countries.

The proposed agreement would cover a score of topics - including market access, intellectual property, investment, agriculture, the environment, tobacco control, drug pricing, labor rights, and financial regulation. The negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership have been shrouded in secrecy. Legislators, stakeholders, and civil society have been dependent upon leaked texts published by WikiLeaks and Knowledge Ecology International to obtain a better idea of the substance of the negotiations.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership promises to be transformative in terms of the Intellectual Property Chapter. The agreement contains a suite of copyright obligations - relating to copyright term extension; online intermediary liability; technological protection measures; and civil and criminal copyright enforcement. The Trans-Pacific Partnership will have a significant impact upon the public domain, innovation and creativity, and cultural heritage

The Trans-Pacific Partnership also contains significant provisions in respect of trade mark law - covering counterfeiting, cybersquatting, geographical indications, and Internet Domain Names. The agreement seeks to provide enhanced protection of well known and famous trade marks. Notably, President Barack Obama promoted the deal at Nike's Headquarters. There have been concerns about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership will affect tobacco control measures - like graphic health warnings and plain packaging of tobacco products.

The agreement also provides for significant obligations in respect of patent law, and related rights, such as data protection, and biologics. There has been much concern about how such measures will impact upon drug pricing, and access to essential medicines. There is also text on access to genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and the environment. The Trans-Pacific Partnership also proposes criminal procedures and penalties in respect of the disclosure of trade secrets.

In addition, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has an investment chapter, with an investor-state dispute settlement regime. There has been debate over whether intellectual property owners should be able to deploy investor clauses in respect of intellectual property rights. There has been much controversy in the Pacific Rim over investor disputes - such as Big Tobacco's challenge to Australia's regime for plain packaging of tobacco products, and Eli Lilly's action against Canada over drug patents.

There has also been debate over the electronic commerce chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Big IT has hoped that the agreement will harmonise regulatory rules in respect of the Internet across the Pacific Rim. However, civil society has been concerned about the impact of the regime in respect of data sovereignty, privacy, consumer rights, open source development, and network neutrality. The leaked text on State-Owned Enterprises raises larger issues in respect of public broadcasting and communication services - such as Australian Post, ABC, SBS, and the NBN.

There has also been much interest in related regional trade agreements - such as the Trade in Services Agreement and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The Australian Government has also been keen on concluding bilateral trade agreements - such as the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA), the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA), the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (CHAFTA), and a trade agreement between India and Australia. Moreover, the Australian Government has been involved in negotiations in respect of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Research director
Matthew Rimmer
International law and global governance group

Intellectual property, 3D printing, and the internet of things

3D printing is a disruptive technology, which promises to transform art and design, science and manufacturing, and the digital economy. As Professor Mark Lemley from Stanford Law School observes, 'A world in which sophisticated 3D printers are widely available would change the economics of things in a fundamental way.' Amongst other things, 3D Printing provides challenges and opportunities for intellectual property.

Our research considers how 3D printing will affect various regimes of intellectual property. First, it considers the issues associated with copyright law and 3D printing. In particular, it looks questions of copyright subsistence, fair use, take-down notices, and digital locks. The dispute between Katy Perry and a maker over Left Shark has been emblematic. Second, our research examines battles over patent law, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things. It examines recent developments in manufacturing, bioprinting, and clean technologies, like the Solar Sinter. Third, our research explores issues associated with trade mark law, three-dimensional shapes, and counterfeiting in the context of 3D printing. In particular, it highlights issues in respect of brand endorsements and character merchandising. Fourth, our research looks at battles over designs law and 3D printing. Fashion is a focal point. Fifth, our research highlights concerns associated with trade secrets and 3D printing. Finally, our work examines whether sui generis protection of 3D printing is desirable or appropriate or necessary under intellectual property law.

Our research also considers 3D printing, and its role in respect of education, STEM schools, and innovation policy. It explores the rise of the Maker Caucus in the United States Congress, and President Obama's America Makes Innovation and Education Policy. It also provides a comparative examination of 3D printing and innovation policy in Australia, the European Union, and North America, with leading collaborators.

The Internet of Things also raises larger issues in respect of safety, privacy, and surveillance.

Research director
Matthew Rimmer
Digital Media Research Centre
Associate Professor Dinusha Mendis (Bournemouth University)
Professor Mark Lemley (Stanford Law School)

Plain packaging of tobacco products: intellectual property and public health

Our research group is interested in the intersections between intellectual property, and public health.

Australia has been a pioneer in tobacco control and plain packaging of tobacco products. As Minister for Health and Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon led the efforts of the Gillard Government to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products in Australia. Big Tobacco challenged the constitutional validity of the regime - complaining that the regime constituted an acquisition of property, particularly in respect of the tobacco company's trademarks, patents, designs, and copyright.

In 2012, the High Court of Australia handed down a landmark decision on the plain packaging of tobacco products. Our research considers the historic ruling in the case of JT International SA v Commonwealth; British American Tobacco Australasia Ltd v Commonwealth, and its aftermath. Our work explores several themes in the decision.

  1. It highlights the historical work by the High Court of Australia on the role of health regulation, the use of health warnings, and tobacco control.
  2. Our research considers the High Court of Australia's view that intellectual property law promotes the public interest.
  3. We explore the High Court of Australia's analysis of the constitutional law on acquisition of property on just terms.
  4. Our research examines the significance of ruling in respect of other labelling schemes - including food and nutrition, labelling, alcohol regulation, and soft drink.

Our research also considers the international dimensions of the debate over tobacco control and plain packaging of tobacco products. It examines the role of the World Health Organization in promoting graphic health warnings and plain packaging of tobacco products. Our research considers how the Australian scheme and the High Court of Australia has influenced other jurisdictions in tobacco control - in particular, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Norway, South Africa, and Turkey. Our research examines the international challenges in respect of the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products. The World Trade Organization is currently hearing a challenge to Australia's tobacco control regime under the TRIPS Agreement 1994, the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade 1994, and GATT. There has been a challenge to Australia's plain packaging of tobacco products under an investor-state dispute settlement clause in an agreement between Hong Kong and Australia. There has been a similar challenge by Big Tobacco against Uruguay's graphic health warnings. Philanthropists Bill Gates and Mike Bloomberg have established an Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund to help defend developing countries in investor disputes. There has been a larger debate about tobacco control in the context regional trade agreements - such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Research director
Matthew Rimmer
The Australian Centre for Health Law Research

Intellectual property

Copyright law and creative communities

This research project considers the role of copyright law in various creative communities - including literature and publishing; the visual arts; design; architecture; music; theatre and the performing arts; TV, film, animation; and other entertainment industries. Building upon the research of Peter Jaszi and Pat Aufderheide, this investigation involves theoretical research about copyright law and creativity; doctrinal analysis of key litigation in the field of copyright law and the creative arts; and empirical research, involving interviews and survey of creative artists.

This study will also undertake historical and archival research to explore the changing relationship between copyright law, creative artists, and new technologies. Moreover, this research project will engage in a comparative analysis of the position of creative artists in key jurisdictions - including Australia and New Zealand, the United States and Canada, the European Union, and South-East Asian countries, such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and China.

This research project considers the question: how does the copyright system impact on the psyche of creators, specifically, their sense of identity as creative people and their relationship to their creative works? Creative practice is a kind of lottery - very few creators are enormously successful, and most struggle to recoup their costs of production. This is largely a result of how our copyright system is structured and how production companies have used that system to drive their business models. The system is underpinned and characterised by ideas of scarcity and abundance - too little or too much. Many artists must work several jobs to financially support themselves, and society often treats creative endeavours as something other than 'real work'. This research project wonders whether these ideas of 'success' and 'failure' are internalized by creators and how it affects their involvement in creative projects. This research seeks to provide a better understanding of creators' internal motivations and how the copyright system influences and, perhaps, distorts these motivations.

This research project examines the copyright system as a whole, as well as all of its constituent parts that may affect how creators approach their creative pursuits. It considers whether and how copyright law actually incentivises creativity and how creators work within or outside of the copyright system to make their income. The project considers how creators respond to changes and policy developments in copyright law, such as the Australian Law Reform Commission's inquiry into copyright exceptions in Copyright and the Digital Economy.

This project also explores the way that assignments, licences and private contract law affect how creators relate to and work with the copyright system. It considers collective statutory licensing and open models of licensing like Creative Commons, as well as private arrangements.

Finally, this project examines those regimes that generally sit at the edges of copyright law, but which can prove immensely valuable to creators, including moral rights and performers' rights regimes. This study also evaluates the value of the resale royalty right for visual artists, and lending schemes. It considers the Status of the Artist regime in Canada, and the intersections between industrial relations and copyright law. This research project also examines the role of copyright law in respect of the protection of the communal knowledge of Indigenous communities.

Research director
Kylie Pappalardo
Creative Industries Faculty

Trademark law, consumer rights and competition policy

This research project considers the growth and expansion of modern trade mark law, policy, and practice. The subject matter protected under trade mark law has widened. In addition to the protection of words, letters, numbers, logos, and symbols, trade mark law has provided protection for new signs such as colours, shapes, scents, and sounds. There has been a concerted push for additional protection of famous trademarks and well-known brands. Global brands have sought protection against trade mark dilution. Branding in the digital economy has raised significant new legal questions. There has been much litigation in respect of intermediary liability for trade mark infringement. There has also been an expansion of civil remedies and criminal offences in respect of trade mark infringement. Trade agreements have sought to provide for stronger enforcement in respect of counterfeiting.

There are tensions between the protection afforded to trade mark owners, and the public interest in consumer rights, and competition policy. There have also been clashes between trade mark holders and creative artists over culture jamming, freedom of speech and artistic expression. There have also been conflicts about the interaction between trademarks and public health initiatives - such as plain packaging of tobacco products, food and nutrition labelling, and alcohol regulations.

This research project also explores the overlap between trade mark law and related rights such as passing off, and the protection afforded under consumer law. There has been a dramatic expansion of passing off to provide protection for personality rights, and character merchandising in Australia. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has played an active role in pursuing misleading and deceptive conduct. This has been evident in respect of legal action against greenwashing, misleading food and health claims, and misrepresentations made in respect of information technology and communications.

This research project also considers the relationship between trade mark law and sui generis regimes of protection. There has been much controversy over the protection of geographical indications for wine and food. There has been an international regime developed for the regulation of internet domain names. The transparency, accountability, and governance of ICANN have attracted significant attention. There has been sui generis protection provided for Olympic insignia, and major sporting events. There has also been much public policy interest in Indigenous intellectual property. There is a major controversy in respect of the cancellation of the trademarks of a Washington Redskins football team in the United States.

Patent law, scientific progress and innovation policy

This research project considers patent law, and its relationship to scientific progress and innovation policy. In particular, this research project examines conflicts over patent validity, patent quality, patent infringement, and patent exceptions.

Superior courts have been considering the subject matter protected under patent law in light of new technologies. In the wake of the global financial crisis, there have been significant reservations in respect of the application of patent law in respect of business methods and financial methods. The patent regime has struggled with successive generations of developments in information and communications technology. There has also been a significant debate over patent law and its application to medicine. There has been litigation in respect of research tools, pharmaceutical drugs, and methods of human treatment. There has been controversy over the operation of patent law in respect of biotechnology. There have been conflicts in respect of patent applications in respect of micro-organisms, plants, animals, human genes, and stem cells. Patent law has also been challenged by new emerging technologies - such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and 3D printing.

The research project considers the public policy debate about patent quality. There has been much attention paid to administrative, judicial, and legislative opinions about patent standards relating to novelty, inventive step, utility, and written description. The research project examines how to improve the operation of patent offices in the examination of patent applications in various fields of technology.

The research project provides a theoretical and empirical analysis of patent infringement. In particular, it examines the problem of so-called 'patent trolls' and regulatory solutions in this area.

There has also been a public policy debate about exceptions and defences to patent infringement. The defence of experimental use has provided protection for researchers to a limited extent. Crown use and compulsory licensing has provided access to patented inventions, subject to compensation and procedural requirements. Patent pools - such as the Medicines Patent Pool - have used as a mechanism to provide access to key inventions. There has been significant interest in public licensing by universities, research institutions, and national science organisations. There has also been experimentation with open licensing and open innovation in a number of patent initiatives. Technology networks have been set up to promote research, development, and diffusion of technologies to address global issues - such as food security, access to medicines, and climate change.

This research project also considers international initiatives in respect of substantive and procedural patent harmonisation.

Research leader
Dr Ben McEniery

Media and communications law

Internet access as a right

Access to the internet can have significant and positive impacts upon our lives. Conversely, a lack of access can be socially isolating and can adversely impact upon a person's ability to engage in today's Australia. With access to the internet (by whatever means) comes the ability to learn, explore, innovate and communicate. Without appropriate access a person's ability in all these areas, as well as their ability to develop and maintain community is affected. This adversely impacts upon them, their family, community and Australia as a whole.

Access is more than just about viewing podcasts or the sending texts. Access-ability properly encompasses identify and supporting a person in all aspects necessary for that person to be able to function in today's Australia as they wish. Access includes overcoming the physical and affordability barriers many Australians still face, as well enabling them to acquire the skills capacity to engage with the services and information once these barriers are overcome.

The ability to access internet content and services is essential for work, and play and everyday life. For those with disabilities or located in remote areas internet services can enable a level of engagement with information, friends and government that otherwise is not possible. It is through use of internet services therefore that other fundamental human rights are enabled. However, in order for the internet to be an enabler of those other human rights, access to the internet first must be enabled.

The responsibility for service provision in Australian is divided between the national provider of the primary network (NBN Co) and private entities, some of which provide infrastructure as well as services. Issues of affordability and issues of network construction are high on everyone's agenda, and yet these are not the only impediments many Australians must overcome in order to be engaged. Skills acquisition, and financial support to ensure ongoing access and skills maintenance, is a very real and very serious concern. As the government slowly rolls out the NBN, many who are without the skills necessary for digital engagement will not have the choice to remain with their current communications service providers or services.

Access to telecommunication services is supported by various government and industry policies and legislation. Of these, the Universal Service Obligation is designed to ensure service provision to consumers. However, despite the ongoing rollout of high speed broadband and the accompanying debates, including those relevant to the financial consideration, the USO continues to apply only to voice (or voice equivalent) telephony services and does not extend to impose upon any party similar obligations with regard to broadband (or any other means of accessing the internet) or access to the internet per se.

The appropriateness of the current policy and regulatory models are currently subject to a number of governmental and industry reviews. What is missing is a review, and a reviewer, who will consider issues specifically from the perspective of the individual as to what they want, need and desire in order to enable their engagement.

Research leader
Dr Lucy Cradduck

Intermediary liability

Internet intermediaries distribute, host, and index online content. They play a crucial role in our digital economy and culture, providing key infrastructure for people and companies to communicate and access information online. Intermediaries are increasingly being asked to enforce law and social norms. These gatekeepers are in a powerful position to monitor user behaviour, remove content, and censor speech.

Our research examines both the liability and the social responsibility of intermediaries as an increasingly important and powerful regulatory force in the online environment. We interrogate the balance between the pressure to enforce laws and the need for adequate safeguards for due process, freedom of speech, and innovation.

Research director
Nicolas Suzor
Digital Media Research Centre

Free speech, privacy and media law

This research project explores freedom of speech, privacy, and censorship in a digital age.

This research project considers the protection of freedom of speech by the Constitution, the Parliament, the courts, and international law. It reviews laws, which encroach upon traditional rights, freedoms, and privileges. This research project examines various laws developed to regulate speech, including laws with respect to defamation, contempt of court, sedition, blasphemy, religious and racial vilification, hate speech, obscenity, and pornography. It considers conflicts over censorship - both in respect of the traditional media of publishing, radio, and television broadcasts, and new social media.This research project also considers the freedom of the press. It examines the position of journalists, whistleblowers, and the publishers. This research project provides a reflection upon the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into Traditional Rights and Freedoms.

This research project considers the 'future of reputation'. It examines the evolution of defamation law, and its application to both traditional media, and mass media. This research project explores the traditional protection of confidential information. The research project examines successive Australian Law Reform Commission inquiries into privacy law into Australia. It evaluates the proposal for a statutory cause of action for serious invasion of privacy. This research project also examines the protection of information privacy. It explores new developments, such as The Do Not Call Register, and anti-spamming legislation. This research project explores the threats posed to liberty, freedom, and privacy by data retention laws and mass surveillance.

Research leader
Peter Black

Innovation law and policy

Knowledge and cultural commons: how groups create and share free and open information resources

We study digital disruption: the massive changes that cheap communication networks are bringing to markets for knowledge and cultural goods. We focus particularly on how people work together to coordinate and fund creative projects outside traditional copyright markets. Our research examines co-operative approaches to creating knowledge goods and cultural works - such as books, films, music, art, and software - that are free and open to all. These commons-based systems promise lower barriers to creating and distributing creative works and greater access to knowledge and culture. We investigate the conditions that are necessary for cooperation to work and the implications these systems have for copyright law and cultural policy.

Creative Commons: We are the institutional hosts of the Australian Creative Commons project for the research, GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums), and creative sectors. We provide support for institutions and individuals who want to release their works under a free license or use openly licensed materials in their own work. Our research focuses on understanding the institutional structures and norms that are required to support vibrant and sustainable commons.

Open Educational Resources and Open Access to scholarly resources: We work to understand new models of coordinating, funding, and distributing scholarly resources. We study how groups of academic institutions, libraries, states, research funders, NGOs, commercial publishers, and individuals are working together to improve access to knowledge around the world. We work with industry partners to study and help develop sustainable models of publishing that can be more efficient, more just, and enable greater public benefits.

Cultural commons and digital copyright: The last few decades have seen massive transformations in the ways that cultural goods are created and distributed. The models for funding, coordinating, and distributing production in the creative industries have been subject to major disruption from the democratisation of technology to produce and disseminate creative works. We study how groups of very different sizes developing new models to make, distribute, and sort creative cultural goods in ways that differ very significantly from conventional models of copyright or state-funded production. Our analysis pays particular attention to the development of commons-based systems of cultural production, as well as on the complex dynamic interplays between market/non-market, amateur/professional, and public/private systems of production.

Research leader
Dr Nicolas Suzor

Democratising energy: intellectual property, clean technologies and climate change

Our research group has expertise in intellectual property and the environment. It has explored such environmental issues in respect of intellectual property, such as agriculture, food security, access to genetic resources, renewable energy, and Indigenous intellectual property.

This research project aims to examine the rise of renewable energy generation at the micro, decentralised level and the extent to which this activity is incentivised or blocked by current energy regulation in Australia and the European Union (EU). Moreover, this project aims to investigate how the disruptive technological changes brought by the Internet and its facilitation of peer to peer communications translate to changes in the way that individuals use and produce energy resources. The rise of the 'prosumption' or 'produsage' Internet sphere has given rise to great potential transformations - in the form of decentralisation and democratisation - in the way that resources are organised and managed. To what extent this promise is fulfilled by individual energy use and production will be one of the key questions of this inquiry.

Specifically, the project aims to:

  • identify the law and regulatory regimes applicable to individual or small-scale community energy generation in Australia and the European Union (EU)
  • assess the extent to which that existing law and regulatory sphere in Australia and the EU incentivises or places obstacles in the way of such energy generation
  • make policy recommendations for legal and regulatory reform which would remove these obstacles and incentivise this kind of decentralised energy production, if that law and regulation does indeed place obstacles in the way of individual or community energy generation.
Research director
Angela Daly
International law and global governance group

Regulating the life sciences

In the area of medicine and biotechnology law, tension exists in the evaluation by the court of patentable subject matter which can impact on public access to the benefits derived from the patents. The research seeks to consider this tension and focus particularly on a matter currently being heard by the High Court of Australia, the D'Arcy v Myriad Genetics Inc (S28/2015). The Appellant, Ms Yvonne D'Arcy of Brisbane, Queensland, is arguing that the disputed claims in Australian Patent Number 686004 ('the Patent') owned by Myriad Genetics Inc involves naturally occurring nucleic acids (DNA) that had merely been isolated, without a 'manner of manufacture' as required by s18(1)(a) of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth) ('the Act'). The Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia had held in D'Arcy v Myriad Genetics Inc [2014] FCAFC 115; (2014) 313 ALR 627 that the isolated nucleic acids resulted in an artificially created state of affairs for economic benefit and that accordingly the disputed claims involved a 'manner of manufacture' within the meaning of the Act.

The ability to patent this DNA segment has precluded many from access to the test for cancer risk developed by Myriad Genetics Inc which cost up to US$4,000. The decision of the US Supreme Court in Association for Molecular Pathology v Myriad Genetics on 13 June 2013 held that a naturally-occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and cannot be patented simply because it has been isolated. In contrast with the decision of the FCAFC, the outcome of the appeal to the High Court of Australia will be of great importance in the field.

The creation of neurotechnologies such as brain-computer interface and neural interface devices to treat nervous system disorders and damaged or destroyed sensory organs by replacing biological limbs and organs is occurring at the intersection of neuroscience, computer science, engineering, medicine and law. The invention, manufacture and implantation of bionic counterparts is transforming human innovation and enabling recipients to interact with the world through man-made software and hardware in collaboration with the human mind. The research seeks to investigate the ways in which these devices are becoming our eyes, ears, arms and legs and the ways in which this might impact on the legal, ethical and social structures in which we live.

Research leader
Scott Kiel-Chisholm
Science and Engineering Faculty, Nanotechnology and Molecular Science
Science and Engineering Faculty, Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics
Queensland Brain Institute
Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain and Behavior
National Institutues of Health - the BRAIN Intitative

Robotics and the law

Researchers in robotics strive to make robots more like human beings. As robots will begin to operate in human environments, these androids will function, not as programmed industrial machines, but as increasingly autonomous agents capable of taking on roles previously carried out only by humans in our homes, schools, offices, hospitals and public spaces. This research considers the increasing sophistication and decision-making capabilities of robots, in collaboration with humans and autonomously, and the impact this might have on the legal and social structures in which robots will operate. In particular, the research will seek to focus on the deployment of robots in positions that put them in direct contact with people. This is likely to result in interdisciplinary collaborations between legal, ethical, economics or policy scholars and roboticists who may have backgrounds in a number of disciplines including computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, physics, human-computer interaction and interaction design.

Research leader
Scott Kiel-Chisholm
Science and Engineering Faculty, Robotics and Autonomous Systems


Research excellence

ERA (Excellence in Research for Australia) 2015 score:

  • 4 (above world standard)

ERA (Excellence in Research for Australia) evaluates the quality of research undertaken in Australian universities against national and international benchmarks.


Research enquiries

Law research office