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Changes to the Regulation of Patent Attorneys

Thursday 17 April 2003 Media Statement

Changes to the Regulation of Patent Attorneys

Cabinet has agreed to a range of measures designed to modernise the regulation of the patent attorney profession, Associate Commerce Minister Judith Tizard said today.

Changes to the existing licensing regime under the Patents Act 1953 will also bring the regime into closer alignment with Australia.

“The patent attorney profession is one of the important links in our innovation framework,” said Judith Tizard. “Patent attorneys provide advice on the obtaining, protection and exploitation of patents, trade marks and designs, and deal with other aspects of intellectual property law such as copyright, trade secrets and plant variety rights.

“If patent attorneys are to help innovators get maximum benefits from their inventions, it is essential that the profession operates within a modern and flexible framework.”

Changes to registration requirements will include repealing the current age and citizenship restrictions, reducing the apprenticeship period from three years to one year, allowing recognition of a qualification gained overseas as a patent attorney and requiring those persons seeking registration to be of good character.

Cabinet has also approved a number of measures that aim to ensure the ongoing quality of patent attorney services. This is essential at a time when intellectual property rights are assuming an increasingly important role in business development and economic growth.

A Patent Attorneys’ Standards Board is to be established to manage the professional qualification examinations. Patent attorneys will be required to develop and operate under a code of conduct and an independent disciplinary tribunal is to be established to hear and determine complaints about the conduct of patent attorneys.

Greater freedom is to be given to patent attorneys to organise their businesses. Patent attorneys will be permitted to form limited liability companies where all directors and shareholders are registered patent attorneys.

Other changes agreed by Cabinet include increasing the maximum penalty from $200 to $5,000 for unregistered persons convicted of providing patent attorney services and the repeal of the restrictive provisions relating to the recovery of patent attorney charges.

The services that law practitioners may provide under the Patents Act are to be extended, by only placing restrictions on their ability to draft and amend patent specifications.

The protection given to communication between a client and a patent attorney under the Evidence Amendment Act (no. 2) 1980 is to be clarified as being equivalent to the protection currently given to communication between a client and a law practitioner.

These changes are to be included in a new Patents Bill that is expected to be introduced into the House later this year.


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