18th August 2015

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey's announcement of a Productivity Commission inquiry into intellectual property should be welcomed, says QUT Professor of IP & Innovation Law Matthew Rimmer.

Professor Rimmer said intellectual property played an important role in research, innovation, competition, trade, investment, and access to goods and services.

"Australia's intellectual property regime has expanded rapidly, but has become quite fractured and fragmented," Professor Rimmer said.

"The Productivity Commission will help provide some greater clarity and coherence in respect of our intellectual property laws, policies, and practices.

"The Treasurer could play an important role in co-ordinating and integrating Australia's domestic and international intellectual property. He should have oversight of all the various intellectual property portfolios - much like he has in respect of other economic policies.

"The Treasurer should weigh up the costs and benefits of intellectual property reform proposals."

Professor Rimmer said the the Productivity Commission had an opportunity to consider a number of pieces of unfinished business in respect of public policy on intellectual property.

"The IT Pricing Inquiry into copyright law, consumer rights, and competition law would benefit from a substantive response," he said.

"The Australian Law Reform Commission's recommendations in respect of copyright exceptions, and proposal for a defence of fair use deserve consideration.

"Moreover, the Drug Patents Inquiry made a number of important recommendations in respect of patent term extensions, data exclusivity, and biologics which have not yet been acted upon.

"Australia's designs laws need to be updated in an age of 3D printing. Likewise, our trade mark regime has been transformed, with the expansion of the internet, social media, and micro-blogging.

"The Productivity Commission could also explore the complex issues surrounding intellectual property, and trade. There has been much controversy over the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the wake of the broken down Hawaii talks.

"The leaked Intellectual Property Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership proposes longer, stronger intellectual property rights. Such a regime would have a significant impact upon innovation, competition, public health, and access to medicines.

"Furthermore, the Investment Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership proposes that intellectual property owners could seek investor-state dispute settlement in certain circumstances.

"As shown by the plain packaging of tobacco products and the Eli Lilly drug patent disputes, the inter-linkage of intellectual property and investor rights are highly controversial."

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, QUT media, 07 3138 2999 or n.widdowson@qut.edu.au

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