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The IP Landscape Has Shifted

As featured by mybusiness.com.au
Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Act 2012 (Cth) (the Act) is an exhaustive document that would make the average layman surrender to legalese fatigue within minutes of picking it up.
But the set of reforms to Australia’s intellectual property laws is also the kind of important legislation that slips into being while the people it is most relevant to are blissfully unaware of its existence.
Big brands and corporations, of course, had lawyers on the case last April – when the reforms were passed – to understand the implications for them when many of the amendments take effect on April 15 this year.
But small business owners can be just as (if not more) vulnerable to the pitfalls of not getting their IP house in order, which means that keeping up with changes is a must, even if the cost of doing so frightens you.
In addition, small business is so often where new ideas and invention thrive and the reforms were specifically made to “provide Australia’s IP system with a more robust framework to support and encourage innovation.”
To do so, the Federal government focused on some main areas:

  • Creating higher, more internationally recognised grants of patents to help Australian innovators and entrepreneurs get their patents granted around the world.
  • Removing some of the concerns for researchers around the risks of being sued over patents.
  • Reducing delays in patent and trade mark applications.
  • Increasing penalties for trade mark infringement, so that they are more in line with copyright infringement fines.
  • Simplifying the IP system and removing what the Federal government saw as “unnecessary hurdles” such as cumbersome application processes.

While all of these changes can potentially impact small business, two of the most relevant areas of change relate to copyright and trade marks, so it is worth delving into these issues a little further.
Changes to Trade Marks Law
The Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth) has been amended to allow for the award of additional damages in trade mark infringement matters, depending on the flagrancy of the infringement; the need to deter similar infringements of registered trade marks; and the conduct of the party that infringed the registered trade mark.
Also, amendments to the opposition process have been made to streamline the trade mark opposition process. To achieve this, the Act imposes new obligations on applicants and opponents in respect of filing times and the documents required to be filed.
A further amendment means that penalties for offences relating to the misuse of trade marks have been increased. Misuse of a trade mark includes falsifying or removing registered trade marks, falsely applying registered trade marks, and possessing or selling goods with false trade marks.
Changes to Copyright Law
The Act amends the Copyright Act to simplify procedures for copyright owners to seize goods at Customs. One of the major changes is that copyright owners may now inspect or remove multiple copies of goods seized at Customs. This provides a copyright owner with an opportunity to determine whether or not the goods infringe their copyright.
Also, importers and exporters must now provide their contact information. This will allow copyright owners to determine who to initiate proceedings against, identify repeat offenders and retain contact details.
Summary
The Act results in major change to the Australian IP system. Consequently, it is very important for all business owners and IP rights holders to be aware of the changes and update their IP policies and procedures before changes take place on 15 April this year.