With one of the most welcoming economies for startup businesses, it’s no wonder so many entrepreneurs are looking to do business in Australia. Earning a spot in the top 15 startup-friendly countries in the world, Australia offers many opportunities and legal structures to facilitate the creation and implementation of a new business. In 2017 alone, the country saw over 328,000 new business enter the market. The most popular sector for startups in Australia is within the up-and-coming FinTech industry.

Typically, with startups comes new and innovative ideas or inventions to solve problems. Naturally, business people look to protect their unique approaches or creations with government-issued patents. Fortunately for businesses in Australia, the country offers a comprehensive and fair system in which parties can apply for and receive a variety of different types of patents.

Australia’s government and patent law

Australia’s government has created extensive patent laws and regulations to ensure intellectual property is protected.

Australia has an organized, calculated, and regulated approach to the government’s role in patent generation and intellectual property (IP) laws. IP Australia, a Commonwealth Government agency and an agency of the Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science, reviews and administers patents to approved parties. Generally, all patent-related laws are covered in the Patents Act 1990, which covers patent rights, ownership, patent validity, applications, approvals, and amendments.

One advantage of getting a patent in Australia is that it will most likely be compatible in other countries. Australia is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and complies with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This means patent laws in Australia are similar to those in other countries with major economies.

In addition to extensive patent approval agency and law, Australia also developed a database which compiles all the issued patents in the country since 1904. The platform was created by the Australian Intellectual Property Office and is still under the agency’s control and regulation to this day.

Standard patents

The first type of patent Australia offers is the ‘standard patent.’

The standard patent grants ownership and legal protection on inventions for up to 20 years from the filing date of the patent. To be eligible for the standard patent, the applicant must prove that the invention is new and novel. Moreover, it must have practical use within a specified industry. The government describes ‘novel’ as an invention that would not otherwise be obvious to a person in the field with appropriate knowledge and technological experience. Additionally, the invention must differ significantly from existing technologies. Differences must be more significant than changes in appearance and/or application of published information.

The timeline for approval of a standard patent can differ greatly. Typically, it is dependent upon the type of invention and legal regulations surrounding the industry and the patent itself. Generally, approval for standard patents can take anywhere from six months to multiple years.

Innovation patents

The second type of patent that the Australian government offers is the ‘innovation patent.’

This type of patent has lower standards for inventiveness and novelty of an invention. Because these standards are lower, the duration of the patent is significantly less than that of the standard patent. Typically, innovation patents last only up to 8 years. Instead of requiring the technology to be inventive, the patent requires it to be innovative within the industry. Generally, people creating and developing technologies within industries that are constantly reinventing themselves apply for these patents. Most notably, innovations within the computer industry receive patents under this realm.

The timeline of an innovation patent is much shorter than that of the standard patent. Overall, the approval process takes around one month. This is significantly shorter because the process does not involved examination of the innovation. Conversely, inventions seeking standard patents go through an extensive examination phase before the agency approves the application.

Protection abroad

Through international agencies and organizations, making an Australian patent valid globally can be a simple process.

Should a business be successful with its patented invention in Australia, considerations to expand globally may arise. Naturally, businesses are encouraged to continue expanding to new markets. However, it’s important to note that patent laws and coverage differ from country to country.  

Even though Australia is part of a series of global intellectual property and trade protection agencies, patents granted within Australia are only valid within the country. However, the agreements and agencies make applying for international patent protection a much easier process. When filing for international coverage, applicants have two options: filing individual patent applications for each country or filing under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

For applicants seeking patent protection in only a handful of countries, filing individual applications for each country will be the best option. Typically, it is a much faster and cost-effective option.

Filing for a single international patent application under the PCT guarantees protection in all countries associated with the agreement. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reviews and administers all international patent applications. Once approved, the patent is valid in all 152 countries involved with the agency.

Cost of a patent

Whether it be the standard or innovation patent, obtaining a patent in Australia can be fairly expensive. Both processes have a variety of application and renewal fees associated with them. Also, the standard patent has examination costs on top of the aforementioned fees. Generally, overall costs for standard patents for a single invention range from AU$3,300 to AU$7,000. Innovation patents are typically cheaper, ranging from AU$3,000 to AU$6,000.

The most expensive process is by far when a business applies for the PCT. Costs and fees for this process can range anywhere from AU$9,000 to AU$15,000.

Seek local assistance

If you are looking to apply for a patent in Australia, IP Australia recommends teaming up with an experienced team to help with the process. Legal processes and jargon can be a lot to balance and compliance with regulation is a large burden if you are running your own company.

Biz Latin Hub’s highly experienced team can assist you and your business in navigating legal, financial, and commercial representation requirements and laws in the South Pacific and Latin America. Contact us at [email protected] for support in taking your business to multinational horizons.