IP Australia faces heat over net searches

The government's intellectual property authority IP Australia has been told off in a Senate Estimates hearing this morning for relying on information obtained on the internet for an industrial design application.

The government's intellectual property authority IP Australia has been told off in a Senate Estimates hearing this morning for relying on information obtained on the internet for an industrial design application.

While IP Australia has strong global patent database, and its own internal trademark database, IP Australia director general Philip Noonan admitted to a Senate Estimates hearing this morning that the organisation is not as strong in industrial design.

"On patents, I'm very satisfied we have search databases that are as good as any office in the world. [For] trademarks, the essential question is, 'does this new application match something already on our register?'

"In the case of designs, it's true that our systems are much less developed, and, given it's a much smaller part of the business, allocating resources to try to address that issue is not something that is easily done," he said.

This had caused problems for the organisation; Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck said that legal troubles have arisen after the organisation relied on information obtained on the internet for the design of a boat windshield.

"IP Australia went to the internet, effectively, to source its information in relation to a particular series of applications," Colbeck said. "You went to the internet for this particular case. The best source was trade magazines, and of course they weren't digitised and you didn't have access to them."

"But it turns out, at the end of the day, that the internet was not the premium source for that information."

Noonan explained that there was no global industrial design database available to verify whether a design application was similar to another, other than through examination of trade magazines, which in this case were not available in a digital format.

He added that there had been talk of a global database but, until then, it was difficult to see how this issue could be overcome without spending an enormous amount of resources on industrial design, which is overall a small part of IP Australia.

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