Consultation on Trans-Tasman Patent Attorney Regulation Regime Launched
After nearly 5-years of trans-Tasman regulation of patent attorneys IP Australia has launched a consultation as part of its review of the system, with responses due by 2nd February 2022.
Back in February 2017 the patent attorney professions in Australia and New Zealand were melded together by way of legislation in each country providing for a joint patent attorney profession and the establishment of the Trans-Tasman Attorneys Board (Board) and Disciplinary Tribunal (Tribunal). The impetus for that legislation stemmed from the initial somewhat ad hoc establishment of a joint patent attorney regulation regime when in March 2013 they entered an Arrangement relating to Trans-Tasman Regulation of Patent Attorneys (Arrangement). Under the Arrangement New Zealand applied the Australian regulatory regime.
The review (and consultation) are focussed around six objectives from the Arrangement, namely to:
A. strengthen the relationship between Australia and New Zealand;
B. provide a joint regulatory regime for patent attorneys in Australia and New Zealand;
C. allow economies of scale in institutional arrangements;
D. minimise regulatory and business compliance costs;
E. increase business confidence in the quality and standard of service provided by patent attorneys; and
F. facilitate competition in the market for patent attorney services.
Responses are sought in relation to the following questions:
Q1. How has the joint regulatory regime impacted upon the relationship between Australia and New Zealand?
Q2. How has the joint registration scheme impacted upon the availability of patent attorney services in Australia and New Zealand?
Q3. What improvements, if any, could be made to the way in which the Board operates?
Q4. What other actions, if any, could be undertaken to improve the economies of scale in institutional arrangements under the joint registration scheme?
Q5. How has the joint registration scheme been effective in reducing the regulatory and business compliance cost for persons practicing as patent attorneys?
Q6. Should any changes be considered to further facilitate reducing compliance costs and why?
Q7. How are the current qualifications and training requirements impacting on those wanting to register and practice as patent attorneys and, therefore, on the number of attorneys available to service the needs of innovative businesses in Australia and New Zealand?
Q8. What changes could be made to the qualifications and training requirements to, for example, increase their accessibility and reduce the time and costs to candidates to qualify for registration?
Q9. Do the regime’s qualifications and training requirements strike the correct balance between ensuring quality of services provided by new entrants to the profession and the availability and affordability of patent attorney services for businesses? If not, what changes should be considered?
Q10. Are the current CPE requirements sufficient to ensure the quality of patent attorney services? Are there any improvements which could be made to the CPE framework?
Q11. What would be the costs and benefits of the Board and Secretariat undertaking a more coordinated and proactive approach to supporting compliance with the code of conduct by patent attorneys? How might the Board and Secretariat undertake a more coordinated and proactive approach?
Q12. Is the Code of Conduct an effective mechanism for regulating attorney conduct and providing confidence in the standards of the profession?
Q13. Are there any more suitable alternatives to a Code of Conduct as a means of regulating attorney conduct?
Q14. What are the costs and benefits from having the disciplinary regime apply to patent attorneys after they have either voluntarily suspended or removed themselves from the register? What might be reasonable sanctions for misconduct for attorneys who have left the profession?
Q15. What would be the costs and benefits from placing a bar on reregistration of attorneys where they have previously suspended or removed themselves from registration while disciplinary proceedings were underway? If a bar were to be imposed, what should that bar be?
Q16. What would be the costs and benefits for the regime from providing more capacity and guidance for Board investigations?
Q17. Would providing more information to businesses about the trans-Tasman regime assist in facilitating attorneys practising across both countries? If so, who should be providing this information and to whom?
Q18. What improvements to the Trans-Tasman patent attorney regime should be made to facilitate SMEs having access to more affordable patent attorney services?
Q19. What other issues, if any, have you experienced with either the operation of the joint registration scheme or the services provided by patent attorneys? How might those issues be addressed?
Q20. What are the costs and benefits of the operation of the trans-Tasman regulatory regime also encompassing of regulation trade marks attorneys in Australia?
Q21. What improvements could be made to the regulation of trade marks attorneys in Australia?
Author: Quinn Miller