Intellectual property (IP) arrangements need to balance the interests of rights holders with users. IP arrangements should:
encourage investment in IP that would not otherwise occur
provide the minimum incentives necessary to encourage that investment
resist impeding follow-on innovation, competition and access to goods and services.
Improvements are needed so Australia's copyright and patent arrangements function effectively and efficiently.
Australia's patent system grants protection too easily, allowing a proliferation of low-quality patents, frustrating the efforts of follow-on innovators, stymieing competition and raising costs to the community. To raise the quality of patents, the Australian Government should:
increase the degree of invention required to receive a patent, abolish the innovation patent, redesign extensions of term for pharmaceutical patents, limit business method and software patents, and use patent fees more effectively.
A new system of user rights, including the introduction of a broad, principles-based fair use exception, is needed to help address this imbalance.
Better use of digital data and more accessible content are the key to reducing online copyright infringement, rather than increasing enforcement efforts or penalties.
Recent self-initiated reforms of the Federal Court, with an emphasis on lower costs and informal alternatives, should improve enforcement outcomes and replicate many of the benefits a dedicated IP court would offer.
Changes to the Federal Circuit Court are one option for improving dispute resolution options for small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Australia's copyright system has progressively expanded and protects works longer than necessary to encourage creative endeavour, with consumers bearing the cost.
While Australia's enforcement system works relatively well for large rights holders, reforms can improve outcomes for small- and medium-sized enterprises.
An overly generous system of IP rights is particularly costly for Australia — a significant net importer of IP, with a growing trade deficit in IP-intensive goods and services.
The Australian Government should focus its international IP engagement on encouraging more balanced policy arrangements for patents and copyright, and reducing transaction and administrative costs for parties seeking IP rights in multiple jurisdictions.
Improving the evidence base and analysis that informs international engagement (especially trade agreements with IP provisions) would help the Australian Government avoid entering agreements that run counter to Australia's interest.
Commercial transactions involving IP rights should be subject to competition law. The current exemption under the Competition and Consumer Act is based on outdated views and should be repealed.
Improving IP governance arrangements would help promote a coherent and integrated approach to IP policy development and implementation.
Multilateral and bilateral trade agreements are the primary determinant of Australia's IP arrangements. These agreements substantially constrain domestic IP policy flexibility.