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Tough new standards for innovation patents will discourage abuse

The Federal Government is considering tough new standards for innovation patents in order to discourage large companies from abusing the IP system.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation, Mark Dreyfus, explained that currently, innovation patents protect simple inventions and improvements to existing technologies. They also require an innovative step, whereas standard patents require an inventive step.

"It may seem like a trifling distinction, but weaker patents can create problems," said Dreyfus.

"The patent system must balance public and private interests. We want sufficient protection to reward inventors but not block obvious follow-on innovation."

Innovation patents were introduced in 2001 to encourage IP protection for small to medium enterprises. Since the Delnorth (2009) decision in the Federal Court, relatively obvious minor improvements to inventions have been patentable.

Dreyfus said some larger companies are now working the system to extend the life of their patents and deliberately target competitors. There has been an unusual growth of innovation patent applications for certain technologies, such as IT and pharmaceuticals.

"Left unchecked, this could lead to more expensive medicines and a lack of competition in some markets," Dreyfus said.

The public can comment on proposed changes by 25 October 2012.

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