Like Bieber fever, the itch to mess with the rules for patenting have spread far and wide. There is currently being considered a Bill to amend Australia’s patent law, which proposes a number of substantial changes.
Under the proposed legislation, there will be a requirement that the description must enable the claimed invention to be produced across the full scope of each claim and not merely in relation to one among other embodiments. The enablement requirement will have a similar effect to the corresponding provisions of UK legislation, the European Patent Convention and the Patent Cooperation Treaty. This requirement will also apply to provisional applications; however there will remain no requirement to describe the best mode in a provisional specification.
Introducing new matter
Under the proposed legislation, whether amendments are allowable will no longer be dependent on claim scope but rather whether the amendment changes the description contained in the specification as filed. Applicants will not be allowed to add new matter that would go beyond the disclosure contained in the specification at its filing date, except to correct a clerical error or obvious mistake.
The proposed legislation will replace ‘fair basis’ with the European concept of ‘support’, namely: there must be a basis in the description for each claim; and the scope of the claim must not be broader than is justified by the extent of the description, drawings and contribution to the art.
The proposed legislation will introduce the additional requirement that the invention has a specific, substantial and creditable use. The use will need to be set out in the specification.
Under the proposed legislation, omnibus claims will be allowed only where strictly necessary. For example, where a chemical composition can only be described with reference to a spectroscopic profile.
Expanded prior art base
The proposed legislation expands obviousness prior art base by removing the requirement that allows only documents or acts that the skilled person could be reasonably expected to have ascertained, understood and regarded as relevant. While a skilled person will be deemed to be aware of all publicly available prior art information, such information may still be excluded from obviousness considerations if it can be shown that the skilled person could not have appreciated its relevance.
Expanded common general knowledge
The proposed legislation expands the common general knowledge to include knowledge of the skilled worker as it existed anywhere in the world at the priority date.
With the proposed changes to the prior art base and common general knowledge, it seems reasonable to expect that Australian applicants will find obviousness more challenging. In many cases, however, the Australian Patent Office’s practice of relying on the prosecution of corresponding US/European patent applications may result in there being limited real change in this regard.
Infringement exemption for experimental use
An exemption to Australian patent infringement is proposed where the predominant purpose of the relevant act is to gain new knowledge, or to test a principle or supposition regarding a patented invention. Further, the exemption is to apply irrespective of whether the person undertaking the relevant act had in mind to later commercialize, for example, an improvement arising from the act, or whether that person was aware of the patent at the time the relevant act was undertaken.
According to the proposal, a person may undertake an act that would otherwise be an infringement of a patent claim ‘if the act is done for experimental purposes relating to the subject matter of the invention’.
‘Experimental purposes’ is non-exhaustively defined as including:
- determining the properties of an invention
- determining the scope of a claim relating to the invention
- improving or modifying the invention
- determining the validity of the patent, or of a claim relating to the invention, and
- determining whether the patent for the invention would be, or has been infringed by the doing of an act.
Further, the amendment proposes that the experimental activities be ‘related to’ the subject matter of the invention. The intention here is to achieve two outcomes:
- that the exemption is to apply to experiments that include the claimed invention, so that the person undertaking the relevant work is not required to conduct patent searches before starting an experiment, and
- that the exemption is to apply to experimentation on a patented invention, i.e. it does not cover experimentation using a patented invention. Importantly, it does not follow that infringement of a research tool patent is to be exempted merely because of the proposed amendment.
Acts that remain outside the proposed infringement exemption include those where the purpose is commercialization. These include ‘market research’ – testing the likely commercial demand for a product, and manufacture for the purpose of sale or use for commercial purposes.
Today’s post is by Australian patent attorney with Freehills Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys.