Australia wants to steal US patents: US Senate Finance chair

The chair of the US Senate Finance Committee is standing firm in not allowing the TPP to be ratified until patent terms for medicines are extended.

A US Senator claims Australia wants to steal American medicine patents under provisions in a 12-nation trade deal.

Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, a US Senate Finance Committee chairman, wants changes to be made to the Trans-Pacific Partnership including a 12-year data exclusivity, instead of Australia's demand for five years.

"We cannot agree to something that would just destroy the biologics industry. In essence what the Australians are saying is 'Let us steal your patents,'" he told the ABC.

Senator Hatch accused Australia of wanting biologics to come off patent as quickly as possible. "But there still has to be enough patent term to be able to recoup the approximately $2 billion and 15 years of effort that you have in biologics, and there's no way you can do that in five years," he said.

Australia's Trade Minister Steve Ciobo met Senator Hatch in Washington, describing their discussions as "constructive".

"Senator Hatch is obviously a very important player in terms of what will happen in respect to the TPP in terms of the United States," he told ABC radio.

But Australia would not be budging on its five-year patent timeframe.

"There's a hard stop in terms of our commitment -- that is the coalition's commitment to Medicare and to the health system more generally," he said.

It was getting "close to midnight" for the US Congress to consider the trade deal, but conversations would continue.

Ciobo insisted the TPP was certainly "not dead", despite presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both opposing it.

In February, the 12 nations that are party to the agreement -- Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile -- signed the agreement in Auckland. It still has to be ratified by member nations.

Under its terms, the TPP will force internet service providers to hand over identification details of alleged copyright infringers so that rights holders can protect and enforce their copyright through criminal and civil means with few limitations.

Australia had previously been working towards a three-strike piracy policy, however in April, the Communications Alliance and Foxtel wrote to the Australian Communications and Media Authority stating that the policy should be shelved, due to the uptake of video streaming services and a drop in the piracy rate.

The Australian government dismissed talk of shortening the length of copyright in Australia from 70 years after the author's death to just 15 to 20 years after creation.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership will also see barriers for government procurement removed between member states, and promote transparent and reasonable costs for international mobile roaming services.

A number of multinational companies, including Google, have thrown their weight behind the agreement.

With AAP

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