Since 1996 it has been the case that Patent attorneys first registered in either Australia or New Zealand have been allowed to register separately to practice in the other country on the basis of their existing qualifications. This ‘Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement’ is one of many examples of close co-operation between the patent regimes of the two countries.
Under this arrangement, more than 500 patent attorneys are already registered to practice in both Australia and New Zealand, including almost all Spruson & Ferguson attorneys.
However, the passage last week in New Zealand of the Patents (Trans-Tasman Patent Attorneys and Other Matters) Amendment Bill has put the final seal on an increased level of integration.
The legislation, and its equivalent in Australia (the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act 2015), replaces the separate existing process and bodies for registering and regulating patent attorneys on both sides of the Tasman sea with a single regime. This has the following features:
- A single register of Patent attorneys for both countries, administered by the Director General of IP Australia.
- A single code of conduct, setting out the minimum standards of professional conduct and ethics required of registered patent attorneys in both countries.
- A single disciplinary structure, including a board, formerly known as the Professional Standards Board, responsible for investigating complaints against patent attorneys in either country, and a Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Disciplinary Tribunal, responsible for hearing any complaints and disciplining attorneys.
The new regime is expected to come into effect formally in February 2017, and any attorney who is registered to practice in either country at that time will be entered onto the new register.
The new regime is unlikely to have any immediate practical impact on our clients. However, the single registration and regulation regime does ensure that going forward, there will be closer cooperation and understanding between the Australian and New Zealand Attorney professions. As the changes largely bring the New Zealand profession into alignment with the Australian profession as it existed before, we are already well equipped to handle the changes and will continue to be able to provide our high quality services with little change or disruption. Clients will, of course, also benefit from the clarity of a single code of conduct holding both Australian and New Zealand patent attorneys to the same standard.
We welcome these changes and look forward to continuing to draft and prosecute patent applications in both New Zealand and Australia on behalf of our clients under the new regime.