by Bonnie Gardiner

Productivity Commission calls for IP reform

Apr 29, 2016
GovernmentInnovationIT Management

The Productivity Commission has called for a reform to “draconian” and “big brother-type” intellectual property laws in a new wide-ranging draft report.

Current IP processes often involve unnecessary patents, copyright that lasts for too long, too much reliance on IP exporting nations, and inaccessible content, the report claimed.

“Only genuine innovations should be granted patent protection and patent fees need to be higher to discourage rights holders from hanging on to patents longer than they need to,” said Commissioner Jonathan Coppel.

Coppel noted that copyright protection lasts too long, as a book written today by an author who lives for another 50 years will still remain protected until 2136. Meanwhile for pharmaceuticals alone, excessive protection costs the Australian Government, taxpayers and consumers over a quarter of a billion dollars each year.

It is also noted by Commissioner Karen Chester that Australia overwhelmingly imports more IP than it exports, with most of the profits from excessive IP rights flowing offshore, while Australian consumers and taxpayers are left to pick up the tab.

“Contrary to views that more patents are always better, Australia’s patent system is poorly targeted. Some patented inventions border on trivial and protection can last too long,” Coppel said.

“Copyright is pervasive, affecting everyone from hip hop artists sampling music, school children watching a documentary in class, libraries and museums preserving Australia’s history, to innovative researchers accessing databases for data mining.”

The report reveals the results of surveys that prove much online copyright infringement is out of sheer frustration from poor access, creating a need for competitively priced online content, as opposed to “draconian penalties and big brother enforcement”.

“The best antidote to copyright infringement is accessible and competitively priced online content,” Coppel added.

To correct these imbalances, the report recommended Australia needs a “new, principles-based, fair use exception”, to protect user rights without undermining the incentive to create.

With suggested IP reform, Coppel said “true innovation and creativity will be rewarded, while consumers will have better access to new and cheaper goods and services.

“Australian firms won’t have to engage in costly workarounds that hinder follow on innovation,” he concluded.

The Productivity Commission has invited submissions on the draft report, to close 3 June 2016. Public hearings will take place shortly after.