25 April 2005

What, no searching!?

In the "good old days" of patent practice, it used to be appropriate to file a first patent application on the confirmation by the client that he or she was satisfied that the invention was new. In the present information age, however, I think that any patent attorney who cannot offer a reasonably priced, effective novelty search is either lazy or inefficient.

The Internet has become one of the most powerful tools of both a patent attorney and an inventor. There are numerous databases that can now be searched. I am constantly reminded of the old adage that "love is blind" when I interview clients. A large proportion of these intelligent and reasonable people have not even done a simple query on a search engine. A good day's browsing could save an inventor thousands. Perhaps more importantly, such a search can put an inventor in a position in which he or she can more accurately select a market niche for the invention.

20 April 2005

Some Basic Info.

First off, please don't expect a lesson in Australian patent practice. This blog is only a window into my jumbled patent soul, so don't expect any sort of structure. Secondly, while I do believe that I am an exceedingly competent patent attorney, if you act solely on the advice provided in this blog then I claim no responsibility for the result. If you need to get hold of me for formal advice, simply drop me an email at beagar@enb.com.au.

IPAustralia

The Australian patent system is administered by IPAustralia. On the whole, IPAustralia is efficient and friendly. The examination standards are probably on a par with those of the U.S. Examinations are carried out at what I would call a medium pace, where E.P.O. is slow and New Zealand is fast. The application process is simple and does not require complicated forms and procedures. Furthermore, if you happen to miss a date (something that never happens here!) you can readily obtain an extension of time if you can show error or omission on the part of the firm or the applicant.

Subject Matter

As in the U.S., practically anything is patentable. The reason for this is that our system relies on a 1640 statute which is subject to constant interpretation by the courts, allowing our patentable subject matter to evolve. This is in contrast to Europe, where patent attorneys have to perform all manner of linguistic acrobatics to define a "technical effect". Personally, I like this approach. Technology is not static.

Novelty

The Act has recently been overhauled so that our novelty requirements can be regarded as absolute. In short, if the invention is known anywhere in the world prior to the date of filing the application then the invention is not patentable.

We have a grace period of 12 months, which is often helpful. However, in order to make use of this grace period it is necessary to file a complete specification as opposed to a provisional specification, which does have cost implications. I will have more to say about this later.

Inventive Step

This is a source of constant wonderment for me and I will definitely have more to say about it later! Anyway, for the purpose of this initial posting, it is sufficient to say that the inventive step requirement is met if a person of ordinary skill in the art would not find the invention obvious when faced with the problem solved by the invention and without the benefit of any hindsight whatsoever.

Some other Interesting Features


We have adopted the innovation patent system here in Australia. A survey (bless 'em!) apparently revealed that standard patents were difficult and time-consuming to obtain (and therefore expensive). Our authorities therefore cobbled together the innovation patent system. So we now have a system that can generate a granted patent in about a month, without a substantive examination. And the catch? Well, apart from a lifespan of 8 years from date of filing, it is necessary to have an innovation patent certified before it can be enforced. In order to be certified, the authorities need to be satisfied that the claimed invention is novel (see above) and innovative. To be innovative, the invention needs to make a substantial contribution to the art. I need to check if there are some cases on this and I may report them if I have the energy and the time. Anyway, please keep an eye out for my upcoming post about innovation patents. I may be venting some spleen.

Conclusion

In order not to bore myself and those readers that have made it this far, I will now begin posting on separate subjects which I find interesting/infuriating.