A niche blog dedicated to the issues that arise when supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) extend patents beyond their normal life -- and to the respective positions of patent owners, investors, competitors and consumers. The blog also addresses wider issues that may be of interest or use to those involved in the extension of patent rights. You can email The SPC Blog here

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Australia takes aim at SPCs: will they survive?

Is Australia going to take the major step of abolishing SPCs?  The prospect is not as startling or remote as it seems, judging by this information from IP Australia (thanks, Anna Feros, for the link). The announcement reads as follows:

The Australian Government is taking practical steps to ensure that the patent system is delivering effective outcomes for consumers and industry with the appointment of an expert panel to review pharmaceutical patents. The Panel will seek public comment before submitting a final report to Government in April 2013.

The Australian Government is taking practical steps to ensure access to affordable medicines, while fostering innovation and research, with the appointment of an expert panel to review the appropriateness of the extension of term arrangements for pharmaceutical patents.

The review panel announced today by the Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation, Mark Dreyfus, comprises:
Mr Tony Harris, former NSW Auditor-General and Parliamentary Budget Officer, as Chair; 
Professor Dianne Nicol, Associate Dean, Research, of the University of Tasmania; and 
Dr Nicholas Gruen, CEO of Lateral Economics.
The review will evaluate whether the system for pharmaceutical patents is effectively balancing the objectives of securing timely access to competitively priced pharmaceuticals, while fostering innovation and supporting research. In particular, the extension of term provisions will be reviewed.

Currently under the Patents Act 1990, patents for pharmaceuticals may be extended by up to five years beyond the standard 20 year term. The extension of term provision was introduced in 1998 and is due for review.

The Panel's final report is due to be provided to the Government in early 2013. A public consultation process will form part of the review.

We will provide secretariat and research support to the review.

For more information, contact Sean Applegate on (02) 6283 2207".
Readers' comments are welcome, as usual. A cynic might suggest that, in global terms, Australia can easily scrap SPCs without fear that "fostering innovation and supporting research" will be harmed since the Australian market is a relatively small one and no serious pharma company is going to shut up shop just because it stops giving SPCs, for at least as long as plenty of other countries with lucrative domestic markets continue to offer patent term extension.  Come to think of it, Australia might want to contemplate abolishing its patent system in its entirety for much the same reason ...

Here's some data concerning the Australian pharmaceutical sector.


Anna Feros said...

Ouch Jeremy re the last comment. I thought I had been harsh in my comments to you when sending this link regarding previous attempts by the Australian Senate to outlaw gene patents but I am now starting to feel like I need to defend Australian IP!

Anonymous said...

Well, IP Australia has also recently released a consultation paper in which it effectively proposes to eliminate the second tier 'innovation patent' system, so…