Australia’s pre‑grant opposition proceedings are playing a more significant role in the strategies of patentees and challengers. 

However, facing a patent opposition in Australia is a new experience for many patent owners. So, what should a patent owner do when faced with an opposition in Australia?

Time is on your side, but don’t sit around

As a patent applicant, time is on your side at the start of the patent opposition procedure. Work on the overall defence plan should commence promptly. Early decisions can be crucial to success, and early mistakes could end up being fatal. Accordingly, long-term planning ought to be done sooner rather than later.  In the past, patent opposition proceedings in Australia often became protracted due to generous provisions relating to extensions of time for lodging evidence. This is no longer the case.

Evidentiary time periods are still extendable, but the regulations relating to extensions of time for evidentiary periods are now reasonably onerous and strictly applied by IP Australia. Unless a party can show that they acted promptly and diligently and made all reasonable efforts to file the evidence in time, an extension will not be granted. In situations where, for example, a party wishes to provide experimental evidence to support their case, such studies may need to be set up early on in the proceedings.

What does an Australian patent opposition involve?

Patent oppositions are conducted before the Australian Patent Office (IP Australia). Any person can oppose the grant of a patent on a patent application by filing a notice of opposition (a simple one-page form) within three months of publication of acceptance of the patent application. Straw man oppositions, where the opposition is filed in the name of a third party (usually a patent attorney firm), are also possible.

After filing the notice of opposition, the opponent has three months to file a statement setting out the grounds and particulars of the opposition, together with a copy of any documents referred to in the statement. The grounds for opposition include:

  • non-entitlement;
  • the invention is not a patentable invention (including not patentable subject matter, lack of novelty or inventive step, in-utility, prior secret use); and/or
  • the specification does not comply with the written description requirements section 40(2) or 40(3) of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth).

Both parties are given the opportunity to file evidence. The evidence in patent oppositions is filed in the form of declarations. In a typical opposition the evidence will include declarations by one or more experts. 

Once all the evidence has been filed, the opposition is then set down for a hearing. Submissions may be made at the hearing in person, by video-conference or in writing. The hearing officer usually takes about three to six months to issue a written decision. The decision in an opposition can also be appealed as of right to the Federal Court of Australia.

Develop a strategy early

Initially patent owners should conduct a cost-benefit analysis, e.g. evaluating the value of the patent versus the cost of fighting the opposition, in view of the likelihood of success. In doing so, it is important to bear in mind that the fact an opposition has been filed strongly indicates that it is at least commercially important to the opponent to try and ‘clear the path’.

If defence is warranted, it is critical to identify potential experts that might assist with providing evidence at an early stage. Obviously, any expert must have the relevant expertise, but they also need to be available to assist, both logistically and in terms of potential conflicts. In highly specialised technical areas the number of potential experts can be small, and it can be a race to secure the best options.

Whilst the case against the patent application cannot be fully understood until the evidentiary rounds are complete, we recommend conducting an analysis of the opposition at an early stage once the Opponent’s Statement of Grounds and Particulars is received, and then updating that analysis on receipt of the evidence. This early review includes understanding the commercial position, considering the patent specification and prior art, and reviewing prosecution history in Australia and other major countries. The analysis can assist with identifying suitable experts, understanding which topics are important to address in the evidence, and highlighting possible amendments that may strengthen the patent application.

Patent applications under opposition can be amended as of right at any time, even after a written decision has issued. The procedure takes time, however, as the amendments need to be advertised for two months and can delay the proceedings. If amendments might be required or desirable, it is important to consider the best timing for making those amendments.

Consider your options for new representation

Opposition practice is a specialised area of Australian patent law, particularly with regard to areas such as preparation of expert evidence, hearing preparation, dealing with procedural aspects and extending into commercial aspects such as settlement negotiations and licensing.

Not all Australian patent attorneys handle patent oppositions regularly and even some that do simply default to a ‘wait and see’ approach when acting for patent applicants. Sometimes that is the right approach, but not always. If your Australian patent attorneys are not proactively engaging with you on these issues, then it is worth considering whether they are the right team for your matter.

How we can help

Griffith Hack’s experts have extensive experience in handling Australian patent oppositions. Our combined patent attorney and legal team provides integrated scientific and legal expertise, together with strategic, commercially-relevant insight, and has a proven track record in delivering results.

To discuss patent oppositions further with a member of our team, click on their profiles on this page.

The phase out of Australia’s innovation patent system caused a flurry of filing activity in 2021, so what are your options if you identify an innovation patent that affects your freedom to operate?

There was a spike in filing activity as part of the phase out of Australia’s innovation patent system, with over 2,700 innovation patents filed in August 2021 alone. With so many recently filed innovation patent cases, it is a good time to consider the available options if you identify an innovation patent that might affect your freedom to operate.

First, is there really a problem?

If you are worried about an innovation patent, it can be useful to get some early advice on the potential scope of the patent rights and, if necessary, the prospects for challenging validity. You may find that the patent claims do not cover your proposed commercial activities. Alternatively, you might get some clarity around a potential problem so that you can start developing a strategy to address it.

Tailor your strategy

If you identify a problematic innovation patent, it might be worthwhile to challenge that validity of it and we touch on some of the available options below. However, in some cases, you may prefer to negotiate with the patentee in order to reach a mutually beneficial commercial solution (e.g. licensing or assignment of the patent rights). Sometimes a validity challenge can be used strategically to encourage the patentee to come to the negotiating table, or to shift the balance in your favour during negotiations.

There is no single strategy that is appropriate in all circumstances. The best course of action for you will depend on your commercial goals and individual circumstances. The Griffith Hack team can assist you with developing a tailored strategy: feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss your options.

A granted (innovation) patent doesn’t always mean much

It is important to remember that innovation patent applications proceed to grant after only a formalities check. However, they do not become enforceable until they have completed substantive examination and been certified. If you are concerned that infringement proceedings might be commenced against you once an innovation patent has been certified, it may be beneficial to consider pre-certification options.

How likely is invalidity?

Requesting substantive examination of an innovation patent is voluntary. As a result, applicants sometimes take an “optimistic” approach to the subject matter being pursued. This may be done by some foreign applicants to take advantage of financial incentives in their country of origin. Alternatively, the underlying strategy may be for the granted (but uncertified) innovation patent to act as a deterrent to competitors, who might not go the additional step of seeking advice on whether the innovation patent is likely to stand up to scrutiny.

China’s utility model is a similar second-tier of patent protection to the innovation patent. Recent figures indicate that patent invalidation proceedings in China have been successful in a significant proportion of cases. Of the concluded invalidation proceedings for utility model patents in 2020, 39.2% of cases were invalidated entirely, 18.2% were invalidated partially, and only 42.6% of the challenged utility models were maintained.

Much is made of innovation patents being harder to invalidate due to the innovative step being a lower threshold than the inventive step requirement of standard patents. While it is true that the innovative step threshold is lower, it is not a free pass to validity. For example, it is important to bear in mind that innovation patents must meet the same validity requirements as standard patent cases for the level of disclosure in the patent specification. Recent case law indicates Australian patent specifications must now meet a higher standard, more aligned with UK and European requirements. With these recent developments in mind, it is wise not to take an innovation patent (especially an uncertified one!) on its face.

Pre-certification options

Third-Party Examination Requests

Sometimes the simplest way of dealing with a problematic case is to ask the Patent Office to look at it. Substantive examination of innovation patents is voluntary, but third parties can request that an innovation patent be examined. This can be done anonymously or by ‘strawman’. Both the third party and the patentee must pay an examination fee in relation to the third party’s examination request. If the patentee fails to pay this fee, the patent will cease. For patentees who filed an innovation patent with no real intention of having it certified, being asked to pay the examination fee may be enough to cause them to abandon the case.

Notice of Matters Affecting Validity

If you would like to enhance the likelihood of objections in examination, you can give the Patent Office a bit of help. It is possible to file a Notice of Matters Affecting Validity (NMAV). The NMAV can provide submissions (and supporting material) asserting that the claimed invention lacks novelty and/or an innovative step. The Patent Office is required to consider the NMAV when the innovation patent is examined (irrespective of who made the examination request).

You can file an NMAV at any time from when the complete specification for the patent becomes open to public inspection to immediately before the Commissioner decides to certify the patent. Again, this can be done anonymously or by ‘strawman’.

Post-certification options

After certification, a patentee can commence enforcement proceedings to assert their patent rights. Accordingly, it is important to consider the risk of the patentee commencing infringement proceedings when contemplating a post-certification challenge to the validity of an innovation. There are a number of different options available, and we recommend consulting with an IP professional to develop a strategy suited to your circumstances.

Re-examination

If the innovation patent has been examined and certified, that does not have to be the end of the matter. If you still have validity concerns, you can ask the Patent Office to re-examine the innovation patent. Again, this can be done anonymously or by ‘strawman’. Re-examination requests can address more grounds than an NMAV including written description requirements.

Re-examination can be considered a “passive” approach in that you provide information to the Patent Office and hope that they will use it wisely. If the Patent Office raises objections in the light of the re-examination request, the patentee will be given the opportunity to respond to the objections, but the party requesting re-examination does not have a formal opportunity to contest the patentee’s response. Re-examination can be a cost-effective option in circumstances where there are clear invalidity grounds.

Opposition

Alternatively, if it is strategically beneficial to take a more active approach to contesting the validity of an innovation patent, you can commence opposition proceedings before the Patent Office. In opposition proceedings, both the opponent and the patentee are given the opportunity to file evidence and make submissions in support of their respective cases. The opposition can proceed to a formal hearing, where each party can be heard and a hearing officer from the Patent Office will prepare a formal decision on the opposition. The grounds of opposition include the same grounds as re-examination.

Revocation

There is also the option of commencing revocation proceedings before the Federal Court. We do not suggest litigation lightly, but in some circumstances revocation proceedings can be the best approach. The grounds of revocation generally include the same grounds as for oppositions.

If you are dealing with nuanced technical issues or a complicated case, it may be beneficial to actively contest the validity of the innovation patent in opposition or revocation proceedings. As noted above, the best strategy will depend on the specific circumstances of any matter.

How we can help

Griffith Hack is a full-service specialist IP firm. We combine a highly experienced and technically diverse patents team with a legal team with a strong track record. At Griffith Hack, our attorneys and lawyers work together to provide you with commercially astute advice and execute a strategy tailored to your needs.

To discuss the available options, please contact a member of our team.

Griffith Hack is proud to announce that Amanda Stark, Principal and Practice Group Leader of our ChemLife team, has received the Client Choice Award – IP Patent Agents and Attorneys, Australia at the 2021 Lexology Client Choice Awards.

Established in 2005, Client Choice recognises individuals around the world who stand apart for the excellent client care they provide and the quality of their service.

The criteria for this award focuses on the ability to add real value to clients’ business; above and beyond the other players in the market. Uniquely, nominees can be submitted only by corporate counsel, with this year’s winners chosen from a pool of more than 2,000 individual client assessments.

What clients said about Amanda

“Amanda is easy to get on with, picks up the issues & technology quickly and provides clear advice, good availability, good communication.”

“Amanda is an exceptional patent attorney with extensive expertise in managing biotech patent matters.”

“Amanda is always, responsive, patient, professional, extremely knowledgeable and works hard to achieve the best outcome for her clients.

“In all my interactions with Amanda, she has been an excellent communicator and consistently provided invaluable advice on patent strategy.“

“Amanda demonstrates a critical commercial perspective. Her outstanding advice has greatly increased our value.”

“Amanda has provided strategic guidance on options to minimise costs while maximising outcomes.”

About Amanda

Amanda is one of the leading practitioners in the Australian biotechnology space. She is a key member of Griffith Hack’s leadership team, heading up the ChemLife practice group and leading the International Business Development and Foreign Associate Relationship program.

Amanda has a reputation for grasping complex legal and technical issues and developing creative solutions to achieve targeted results. Known in the industry for her tenacity and lateral thinking, clients transfer their work to Amanda when issues arise that most attorneys cannot resolve. A key strength of Amanda’s is IP strategy formulation and she is often called upon to develop IP strategies for companies looking for investment.

In a recent decision of the Australian Patent Office, Cytec Industries Inc. successfully defended its Australian Patent Application No. 2014370386 against all grounds of opposition.1 The decision highlights some key aspects of Australian patent oppositions, including the emphasis placed on expert evidence by the Patent Office when deciding on grounds such as inventive step, and the importance of formulating a clear position supported by the evidence in hearing submissions.

Griffith Hack were involved in the latter stages of CSIRO v Cytec, handling preparation of submissions and hearing strategy on behalf of Cytec.

Technology

The patent application concerned the production of polyacrylonitrile (PAN) polymer suitable for use in producing carbon fibre and having particular properties, including a requirement for high molecular weight and narrow polydispersity index. Claims were directed to a multi-step process for producing the polymer including the use of reversible addition/fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) agents, and also to processes for producing carbon fibre from the polymer.

Straw Man Opponent

Any person can oppose grant of a patent application in Australia, and in CSIRO v Cytec the opposition was originally filed by a ‘straw man’ opponent. A so-called ‘straw man’ opposition usually involves an attorney or attorney firm opposing on behalf of somebody else – to conceal the identity of the true opponent. Opponent status was transferred to CSIRO late in the proceedings, after questions were raised about a possible association between some of the expert witnesses and the true opponent.

Expert Evidence

In Australian patent oppositions, providing strong expert evidence on matters such as common general knowledge or steps that a person skilled in the art (PSA) would have taken is often critical. The hearing officer will generally rely on such evidence rather than their own technical expertise. It is also preferable to involve independent experts where possible.

In CSIRO v Cytec the Delegate considered that, whilst one of the opponent’s expert witnesses had considerable expertise in RAFT polymerisation and a high level of inventive capacity, they were not truly representative of a polymer scientist of ordinary skill. Whilst the evidence was not excluded, consideration was given as to whether it went to the issue of what the common general knowledge was and what a PSA would do, rather than what the witness themselves knew.2

Two expert witnesses emerged as being employees of the true opponent, and a third was a director of a joint venture set up by the opponent. Concerns over the identity of the true opponent not being disclosed earlier in the process, and its impact on the value of the evidence, were also addressed by the Delegate.

He emphasised that the witnesses were provided with the Federal Court’s Expert Evidence Practice Note, and were aware of their role in providing relevant and unbiased evidence, and so their evidence was not disregarded.

However, it was also noted that at times declarants went beyond the role of providing evidence on technical issues. The Delegate further commented that, whilst witnesses will understandably disagree with each other, and may express those differences in strong terms, such statements can indicate a lack of objectivity or suggest that the witness is acting as an advocate. As a result, some of the evidence was approached with caution.3

Inventive Step

Alongside preparation of evidence, a key facet of opposition practice is the ability to set out a party’s case strongly in written and oral submissions, and to anticipate and respond to arguments made by the other side.

The main ground of opposition pressed at the hearing in CSIRO v Cytec was lack of inventive step. The Delegate agreed with Cytec’s position that the problem solved by the invention was the provision of PAN polymer suitable for use in producing carbon fibre, and having a low polydispersity and high molecular weight, preferring that to the opponent’s alternative problem of producing PAN polymer with low polydispersity.4

Further, Cytec’s position was preferred on a number of key issues, supported by their expert evidence, including that:

  • it was not common general knowledge that RAFT could be used to prepare PAN copolymers; and
  • there was a technical prejudice in the art that RAFT presented challenges in achieving the appropriate properties for PAN copolymers, namely achieving both high molecular weight and low polydispersity.5

Attention was also drawn to a contemporaneous paper published by CSIRO authors. The parties presented differing views as to what the paper taught, but ultimately the Delegate held that the document indicated that the manufacture of PAN polymers having high molecular weight and low polydispersity suitable for production of high quality carbon fibre presented challenges.6

Against that background, the claims were held to be inventive, both in the light of the common general knowledge alone, and the common general knowledge together with the cited prior art documents.

Final Thoughts

Since the Raising The Bar Amendments to the Patents Act 1990 came into force a number of years ago, Australia has become a more challenging jurisdiction for patent applicants requiring greater consideration of strategy than in the past. An opponent now only needs to prove their case on the balance of probabilities rather than demonstrating that the application is clearly invalid, and there are increased support and sufficiency requirements intended to align with UK and European provisions.

Whether an owner or a challenger, careful preparation of evidence and submissions is a key aspect of opposition practice. Factors important for success in Australian oppositions also include an understanding of the scientific and legal issues, developing an effective opposition strategy, and evolving that strategy as necessary as the opposition progresses.

When faced with an opposition, patentees should consider whether they have the best team to successfully defend the patent application. Transfer of the representative on an opposed application is allowable, and may be preferable for some high value cases and situations where opposition experience is essential.

How we can help

Griffith Hack has a patent attorney and legal team with a strong track record, not only in defending patent applications where we have been responsible for prosecution, but also in getting across the scientific and legal issues quickly, and delivering results when we are brought in specifically to handle the opposition.

To discuss patent oppositions further with a member of our team, click on their profile below.


Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation v. Cytec Industries Inc. [2021] APO 27.
2 Ibid, [36]. 
3 Ibid, [37]-[39].
4 Ibid, [63].
5 Ibid, [85}, [91].
6 Ibid, [100].

With Australia’s innovation patent system set to end later this month, pre-grant opposition proceedings will likely play a significant role in the strategies of challengers going forward – and owners will want to be prepared. Gavin AdkinsDr Toby Thompson and Amanda Stark discuss. 

Australia’s innovation patent system is ending soon. As a result, Australia’s pre‑grant opposition proceedings will likely play a more significant role in the strategies of patentees and challengers in the future.

Innovation patents are subject to a different ‘post-grant’ opposition procedure to standard patents that is stayed by the commencement of court proceedings. As a result, divisional innovation patents are sometimes used as a litigation tool in order to, among other things, short circuit the enforcement delay associated with the pre‑grant opposition procedure for standard patents. As the innovation patent system is phased out, this tactic will fall away.

Australia’s pre-grant patent opposition procedure is long-standing but has undergone some important changes in recent years that will become critical in the future.  These changes include higher requirements for several grounds of opposition, resulting in a less pro-patentee opposition regime than was previously the case.   

Lower burden of proof

Previously, in order to succeed in opposing grant of an Australian patent it was necessary for an opponent to establish that the patent, if granted, would be clearly invalid.

Now an opponent need only satisfy the Hearing Officer on the balance of probabilities that a ground of opposition to the grant of the standard patent is made out.

Stronger grounds for opposition

In respect of standard patent applications which are filed on or after 15 April 2013, or for which examination is requested after this date, there are four substantive changes that strengthen the grounds for challenging validity:

1. Broader prior art base for inventive step (obviousness)

Firstly, the background “common general knowledge” is no longer confined to that which existed in the art in Australia. In practice, this removes the need to use local Australian experts or otherwise prepare evidence in order to establish that the relevant art is ‘international’ in nature.

Secondly, in order for prior art to be eligible for assessing inventive step it is no longer necessary to establish that it must be “information that a skilled person […] could, before the priority date of the relevant claim, be reasonably expected to have ascertained, understood, regarded as relevant”. This removes another evidentiary obligation from an opponent and broadens the prior art base substantially.

2. US utility requirement

An express utility requirement was inserted to align with the US position such that “a specific, substantial and credible use for the invention (so far as claimed) is disclosed in the complete specification”. This is in addition to the pre-existing requirement for the invention itself to be useful.

3. UK/European enablement and support requirements

The disclosure requirement for complete applications has been amended to conform substantially to the corresponding UK provision, such that the complete specification must “disclose the invention in a manner which is clear enough and complete enough for an invention to be performed by a person skilled in the relevant art”.

Further, the ‘old test’ for fair basis has been replaced with a requirement based on UK/European law that that the claims are “supported by” the description. The ‘old test’ for fair basis was essentially limited to a textual comparison between the claims and the body of the specification or priority document that did not involve any inquiry into ‘technical contribution to the art’.

4. Tighter restrictions on amendments

While not a ground for invalidity, patent applicants are not allowed to add matter that goes beyond the disclosure contained in the specification at its filing date, except to correct a clerical error or obvious mistake.

Strict time-frames for evidence

In the past, patent opposition proceedings in Australia often became protracted due to generous provisions relating to extensions of time for lodging evidence. This is no longer the case.

Evidentiary time periods are still extendable, but the regulations relating to extensions of time for evidentiary periods are now reasonably onerous and strictly applied by IP Australia. Unless a party can show that they acted promptly and diligently and made all reasonable efforts to file the evidence in time, an extension will not be granted.

The procedure from filing the Notice of Opposition to the issuance of a written decision on validity can now be completed within about 18 months, although extensions of time (where allowed), amendments and procedural disputes can extend this time-frame.

Use all available options

It is currently still possible to file new applications for innovation patents in Australia, until 25 August 2021. Even after that date, it will still be possible to file applications for innovations which are divisionals of existing applications filed before that date.  As a result, if your invention is of significant commercial value and is likely to be commercialised in the short to medium term, an 8-year term innovation patent may still be a useful option.

How we can help

Facing a pre-grant opposition in Australian is often a new experience for many patent owners, and opponents also.  Opposition practice is a specialised area of Australian patent law, particularly with regard to areas such as preparation of expert evidence, hearing preparation, dealing with procedural aspects such as amendment requests and extensions, and extending into commercial aspects such as settlement negotiations and licensing.

Griffith Hack’s experts have extensive experience in handling Australian patent oppositions. Our combined patent attorney and legal team provides integrated scientific and legal expertise, together with strategic, commercially-relevant insight, and has a proven track record in delivering results.

To discuss patent oppositions further with a member of our team, click on their profiles below. 

AusBiotech has released a draft strategic roadmap for a new regenerative medicine Catalyst, and is now seeking sector feedback from those interested in the future of regenerative medicine in Australia.

On 29 July 2021, AusBiotech released for comment a draft roadmap for Australian regenerative medicine (RM), with the aim of developing strategic goals, objectives and priority actions for a national RM sector ‘catalyst” collaboration body, the Catalyst Body.

We welcome the impetus of the seven consortium members of the Regenerative Medicine Catalyst Project in seeking to advance the development and earlier access to ground-breaking regenerative medicine therapies for Australian patients.

The draft roadmap states:

“Our vision is that Australian patients have access to world-class regenerative medicine therapies sustained by a thriving Australian RM industry. 

Our mission is to create an end-to-end world-class value chain that can discover, develop, and distribute regenerative medicine, while creating jobs, commercialising research, and exporting Australian therapies to the world.

An excellent summary of the strategic plan is provided in Figure 1 on page 8 of the draft roadmap, outlining priority actions to build stakeholder engagement and encourage investment within the sector, establish forward-looking regulatory pathways, and develop the requisite manufacturing capability needed to accelerate growth in regenerative medicine therapies.

The underlying theme of the draft roadmap is that the vision and mission will only be achieved through collaboration, with a call for greater coordination and cooperation concluding the draft roadmap.

The Australian RM sector is invited to comment on the draft roadmap by Friday, 13 August 2021 by providing feedback to Camille Shanahan, National Projects Manager – Regenerative Medicine.

We look forward the RM sector’s input on this important initiative.

Griffith Hack has maintained its status as a Tier 1 firm for patent prosecution in the IP STARS 2021 rankings, with principals Amanda Stark and Janelle Borham named as Patent Stars.

The results highlight Griffith Hack’s standing as a leader in patent work both within Australia and internationally.

Earlier in 2021, Griffith Hack was also named as a Tier 1 firm for trade mark prosecution by IP STARS, with Anne Makrigiorgos recognised as a Trade Mark Star.

Published by Managing IP, IP STARS recognises firms and senior practitioners who have been identified as leaders in their fields and is considered one the most comprehensive and widely respected guides in the IP profession.

Australia’s innovation patent system is ending soon. For patent applicants, there’s still time to take advantage of the system – you just need to act quickly. 

The sun is quickly setting on Australia’s innovation patent system, with the 25 August 2021 deadline to file applications fast approaching. 

In this article, we look at the key aspects of the innovation patent phase-out process, what options are still available to you, and provide a refresher on what an innovation patent is. 

What is an innovation patent?

Australia currently has a two-tier patent system: standard patents and innovation patents. Innovation patents were introduced in 2001 to encourage businesses to protect their innovations. We break down the differences between the two systems in this table:

Standard patent Innovation patent
20-year term 8-year term
Must involve inventive step Must involve innovative step
Application > Examination > Grant Application > Grant (streamlined)
Unlimited claims Maximum 5 claims
Enforcement after grant Enforcement after certification

The innovation patent system offers a number of advantages for applicants:

  • Lower threshold for patentability: While standard patents require an inventive step, innovation patents only require an innovative step.
  • Innovation patents can be filed for the same subject matter as standard patents.
  • An innovation patent provides the same rights as a standard patent.
  • Innovation patents and standard patents may coexist for the same invention (as long as there is a difference in respective claim scope).

Innovation patents provide very robust patent protection even for subject matter that would not support a standard patent, and can therefore be a critical part of a successful infringement action.  The innovation patent process (which is streamlined and does not include any pre-grant opposition) is also a very effective mechanism to secure rapid grant for enforcement.

How will the innovation patent phase out work?

The phasing out of Australia’s innovation patent system officially commences on 26 August 2021. For patent applicants, this means there are key dates you need to be aware of:

  • New innovation patent applications, or standard applications on which an innovation patent may be based, must be filed no later than 25 August 2021.
  • New innovation patent applications submitted on or after 26 August 2021 will not be accepted.
  • Existing innovation patents and innovation patent applications filed on or before 25 August 2021 will continue in force until they expire.
  • A standard patent application can be converted to an innovation patent application after 26 August 2021, as long as the standard patent application was filed on or before 25 August 2021.
  • It will also be possible to file a divisional innovation patent application from a standard patent application that was filed on or before 25 August 2021.
  • By 26 August 2029, all innovation patents will have expired.

What the end of innovation patents means for you

Whether you have an existing innovation patent, are considering filing for an innovation patent, or want to keep your options open for filing an innovation patent during the phase out period, there are key deadlines and facts that you need to be aware of. We break it down in this set of FAQs. 

Can I still file an innovation patent application?
Yes, you can file an original innovation patent application until the deadline of Thursday 25 August 2021 (AEST). 

Can I apply for an extension?
No, there are no avenues available to apply for an extension, or to file late applications. 

What if I already have an innovation patent or have previously filed an application?
All innovation patents and innovation patent applications filed on or before 25 August 2021 will continue in force until they expire.

Are there any other options available to me after 26 August 2021?
Yes, there are two alternate options available for you to take advantage of the innovation patent system after 26 August 2021 – but you still need to act before 25 August 2021:

  1. Standard patent application conversion: A standard patent application can be converted to an innovation patent application from 26 August 2021, as long as the standard patent application was filed on or before 25 August 2021.
  2. Divisional innovation patent application: It will also be possible to file a divisional innovation patent application from a standard patent application, so long as that was application was filed on or before 25 August 2021.

Should I file an innovation patent application now? If so, what do I need to do?
You do not need to file the innovation patent before 25 August 2021 provided that you have filed a standard (non provisional) patent application in Australia by that date. By doing so, you will keep your option open to file the innovation patent after 26 August. The standard patent application may be a direct filing in Australia or may be an International (PCT) patent application designating Australia.

The innovation patent filing may be subsequently based on the standard patent application (as a divisional application or by conversion). One of the key strategic advantages of the innovation patent system is to provide rapid grant and robust protection in enforcement proceedings and this advantage will remain whilst the standard patent application remains pending.

If the invention has a short life cycle or is incremental (such that it would not be eligible under a standard patent), then you should consider filing of the innovation patent directly before 25 August 2021. This will simplify the patenting process and be more cost effective.

Can I still maximise my patent term if I accelerate my complete patent filing to meet the deadline?
Yes, by adopting a “dual track” strategy where you file a first standard patent application by 25 August 2021 to form the basis of an innovation patent filing during the phase out period whilst that standard patent application remans pending.

A second standard patent application can be filed subsequently closer to the 12 month priority deadline to ensure the maximum term of the patent is retained. Steps would need to be taken to avoid a “double patenting” objection but these can be managed by keeping the first patent application pending.

Key takeaways

  • If you want to take advantage of Australia’s innovation patent system, you need to act soon.
  • New applications must be submitted by 25 August 2021 (AEST).
  • Existing innovation patents and applications submitted on or before 25 August 2021 will continue in force, expiring at the end of their 8-year term.
  • You should consider accelerating your complete (non-provisional) patent application filing in Australia before 25 August 2021.
  • Griffith Hack is here to help. If you have further questions or are unsure what the best steps to take are, please contact the Griffith Hack team who can take you through your options to ensure that you extract maximum value from the innovation patent system while it lasts.


Further demonstrating Griffith Hack’s depth of expertise and excellence across patent, trademark and IP law, seven Griffith Hack principals have been individually recognised in this years’ World Intellectual Property Review (WIPR) Leaders Guide – an increase of five listings for the firm since the 2020 guide. We are thrilled not only for the listed IP professionals, but the example they set as high-performing senior female leaders.

Janelle Borham

Janelle is a member of Griffith Hack’s specialist Life Sciences team and Vice President of the Institute of Patent & Trade mark Attorneys of Australia (IPTA). Janelle has over 20 years’ experience providing clients strategic IP advice, with a particular interest in polymers, energy technology, food technology and pharmaceuticals. See Janelle’s full profile here.

Anne Makrigiorgos

Anne Makrigiorgos is the National Practice Group Leader for Griffith Hack’s Trade marks team and a former IPTA President. For over 30 years Anne has advised clients on trade marks, copyright, designs, consumer protection and IP agreements. See Anne’s full profile here.

Dr Kathryn Morris

Kathryn’s area of specialty is patents, including everything from drafting patent specifications to providing advice on patent term. Kathryn’s clients range from small companies and research institutions to large companies both locally and overseas, and span the full chemistry spectrum. See Kathryn’s full profile here.

Emma Mitchell

Emma’s expertise includes commercial contracts (including in relation to licence), supply, export, manufacturing, collaboration, research and development, branding and sponsorship. Emma has extensive experience in both contentious and non-contentious intellectual property matters in many sectors including consumer goods, fashion, design, and manufacturing. See Emma’s full profile here

Leanne Oitmaa

As part of Griffith Hack’s IP law team, Leanne has specific expertise in the areas of telecommunications, optical and photonic technologies, internet applications, e-commerce and mechanical devices. As both a lawyer and qualified patent & trade marks attorney, Leanne draws on her unique skillset to the benefit of the clients she advises. See Leanne’s full profile here.

Nicola Scheepers

Nicola provides strategic advice on a wide range of trade mark issues for banking, FMCG, food service, fashion, pharmaceutical and SME clients, with extensive experience in Australia and internationally. Nicola is renowned for her thorough, straightforward advice and in-depth trade mark issue understanding– particularly the varying requirements of different countries around the world. See Nicola’s full profile here.

Amanda Stark

Amanda started her career in the UK as an IP manager in a biotech start-up and in addition to her Australian credentials, is qualified as a UK patent agent and a European Patent Attorney. Amanda has particular experience in human and animal health and plant biotechnology, lecturing in Australia and overseas on issues around biologics and biosimilars as well as patent strategy. See Amanda’s full profile here.

What is WIPR leaders?

According to its publishers, the WIPR Leaders (the guide) is unique; not “ just another rankings project” and created due to industry demand for an impartial editorial-led guide as to the best of the best in today’s IP industry. Put simply, WIPR Leaders is a one-stop guide to the world’s leading IP practitioners. The directory lists over 1,700 IP professionals across patent, trademark, and copyright practices. Stemming from a four month nomination period which includes views from 12,000 IP professionals, the WIPR research team vetted every nominated professional for suitability.