Australian Review Of IPR, Competition Balance Draws Mixed Academic Response 21/08/2015 by Dugie Standeford for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)A government-ordered review of Australia’s intellectual property arrangements could either resolve many important and long-standing issues or prove to be yet another political exercise in futility, academics say. The review, announced on 18 August by Treasurer Joe Hockey and Small Business Minister Bruce Billson, will be handled by the Productivity Commission. It will examine whether the country “has the right balance between promoting competition and protecting intellectual property, while considering our international trade obligations.” There will be public consultation, and recommendations are due within 12 months. Among other things, the government tasked the commission with assessing the effect of the scope and duration of protection offered by the country’s IP system on research and innovation; access to and cost of goods and services; and competition, trade and investment; and with suggesting changes to improve the overall well-being of Australian society while taking account of its international trade obligations. The government statement says the review “delivers on a key recommendation” of the Harper Competition Policy Review, which is available here. “Here We Go Again” “The review is an opportunity for an increasingly distracted government to set its stamp on the Australian economy for the next 20 years,” Bruce Baer Arnold, assistant professor at the University of Canberra School of Law, wrote on 19 August on The Conversation, which provides news and opinions from the academic and research community. “It is an opportunity that will almost certainly be missed,” he said. The choice of the Productivity Commission is welcome, Arnold said, because of its “wariness about intellectual property as an exercise in rent seeking, particularly by overseas interests at the expense of Australian consumers and small business.” It has also slammed free trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, that could reshape the overall economy and public sector, he noted. But this is another in a series of major IP reviews by bodies such as the Australian Law Reform Commission, Advisory Council on Intellectual Property and Therapeutic Goods Administration, Arnold wrote. They all involved public consultation and economic analysis and resulted in recommendations for changes to the IP regime based on public interest, recognition of new technologies, and awareness of trade concerns. The government has ignored most of the recommendations but they “reappear, the ghosts of intellectual property inquiries past, every couple of years.” The new review offers the chance for comprehensive, coherent reform of the system, said Arnold. It could make changes that clearly acknowledge the needs of consumers; settle the question of “orphan works” whose authors are unknown or can’t be found; tackle patent over-reaching; and “reject calls to privilege overseas media groups through criminalisation of minor copyright infringements.” But this is likely to be another case of “here we go again,” Arnold said. Readers of Productivity Commission statements over the past decade will have a sense of its likely recommendations, but “you will also have a sense of how the Treasurer, trade minister, industry minister and health minister of the day will drop the hot potato.” “I Am Optimistic” “I am optimistic, while Arnold is pessimistic, about the inquiry,” Queensland University of Technology Professor of IP & Innovation Law Matthew Rimmer told Intellectual Property Watch. The Treasurer could have chosen other possible reviewers, such as a government department, consultancy firm or another law review body, he said. But it’s “telling” that Hockey gave the job to the Productivity Commission, which has a 20-year track record for independent work on IP and trade, and a reputation for demanding empirical evidence. The commission “could play a good role” in integrating Australia’s IP laws, often governed by multiple, often competing, government departments, he said. Among other things, the review could help revamp the country’s approach to treaty-making in respect of IP at a time of great activity, such as the TPP, Trade in Services Agreement and China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, said Rimmer. It could address the relationship between IP and competition policy and tackle “unfinished IP business” such as the Australian Law Reform Commission’s fair use enquiry. It could also respond to emerging technologies such as 3D printing and the Internet of Things. More of Rimmer’s views are available here. Opposition Likely But there will likely be opposition to the review from existing government departments, particularly the Attorney-General’s and Foreign Affairs and Trade Departments, Rimmer said. IP industry stakeholders who want to push for stronger, longer IP rights at the domestic and international levels “will be resistant to” the commission’s intervention. That said, IP Australia, the government agency that administers the laws on patents, trademarks, designs and plant breeders’ rights, “will be quite co-operative – given their interest in the economics of IP,” he emailed. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Dugie Standeford may be reached at email@example.com."Australian Review Of IPR, Competition Balance Draws Mixed Academic Response" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.