Under the umbrella of the Single Economic Market initiative, the New Zealand and Australian governments are working together to remove regulatory barriers to businesses working in both countries. Included in this streamlining process are the ways in which patent applications are handled. Many businesses, both within these markets and elsewhere, will be relieved to hear that the New Zealand and Australian governments have decided to streamline the patenting process by allowing a single patent application to be filed for both countries – a change from the current system, where it is necessary to file individual patent applications in each country. This change is anticipated to take place in early 2013.
The aim of the new system is to reduce patent filing costs for those seeking patent protection in both countries.
The effect on the number of patent applications that will be filed in each country is unknown at this stage. Perhaps there will be little change. On the other hand, it might be that more patent applications are filed in New Zealand than previously. If so, this would require businesses operating in New Zealand to navigate their way through a larger pool of patents before commercialising a new product (for example) in the New Zealand market and, consequently, incurring higher costs in an effort to establish whether they are free to do so without infringing someone else’s patent. In other words, although savings will be made when filing a patent application in both countries, costs to commercialise a new product in New Zealand may be higher.
To begin with, a patent application designating both New Zealand and Australia will be examined separately by an examiner in each country. However, the intention is that, in 2014, a patent application filed in both New Zealand and Australia will be able to be examined by a single examiner (from either country) for compliance with the patent laws of both Australia and New Zealand. This is intended to reduce the workload of the patent offices in both countries, possibly speeding up the patent application process.