Voluntary standardised IP framework supported

A newly-proposed standardised IP Framework is a long-supported idea, but should be voluntary, recommended a joint submission by Research Australia, AusBiotech, Medicines Australia and MTAA to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s recent consultation.

Seeking to incentivise and increase partnerships between companies and universities, the Department released a sector-agnostic consultation paper: the Higher Education Research Commercialisation (HERC) IP Framework.

The aim of the framework is to “provide standardised IP licensing and contractual agreements to establish a strong foundation for negotiating and managing successful university-industry collaboration and partnerships.” IP includes rights such as patents, designs, trade marks, plant breeder’s rights and copyright, as well as trade secrets.

In its joint submission, the peak industry bodies that represent a significant proportion of the health R&D sector agrees that an IP Framework is a good idea, however, proposed that rather than making it mandatory, it should be made available without restriction for all entities to use from the date of its release.

If mandatory, the Framework has the very real potential to stifle innovation in Australia, both in the types of commercial agreements that can be reached and even in the format the contracts can take. It will also make it more difficult to adapt the Framework to accommodate new innovation and approaches in IP Framework development, commercial negotiation, dispute resolution and contract execution.

Despite the intention to the contrary, mandatory contracts may well deter some large businesses and SMEs. Where one of the parties is an international organisation, there may be a preference to adopt an international jurisdiction for the agreement. Large and multinational companies are also likely to have their own global standard agreements and terms they prefer to use, particularly for lower value investments and transactions. These factors will prevent engagement between universities and businesses in some circumstances.

A formal pilot of the new IP Framework was recommended, including collecting performance metrics during its first few years to support its continuous improvement.

The peak industry bodies welcome working with the Department on the further development and implementation of this pilot, and – given the technology-agnostic nature of the consultation – strongly encouraged the Department first organise a series of sector-specific workshops to explore the unique issues faced by a standardised IP Framework.

Read the joint submission here.

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