IP Australia issues five-year strategic statement


IP Australia has released its five-year strategic statement setting out its vision towards creating an effective, efficient, consistent and accessible global IP system that promotes innovation, investment and international competitiveness for the benefit of all Australians. Insofar as trademarks are concerned, the strategic statement is built on the idea that trademark owners seek to obtain enforceable trademark rights as seamlessly and cost-effectively as possible. It also aims to change the way in which stakeholders do business with IP Australia and the way in which IP Australia responds.

Increased international trade and investment flows, together with the growing complexity and sophistication of products and services, the rise of the internet and the emergence of branding as a global marketing and cultural phenomenon have transformed the way in which goods and services are marketed and sold. As a result, consumers are increasingly relying on trademarks as a means of identifying goods and services from the wide range available. These recent trends have not only given trademarks greater prominence, but also brought challenges to the trademark system as a whole (see Tucker P, "Trademarks in the future - an IP Australia perspective", (2004) 15 Australian Intellectual Property Law Journal, 128, 128-9). Greater awareness of IP rights and increased demand for the protection of trademarks have stretched the resources of many IP offices around the world, highlighting the need for a review and overhaul of trademark practice.

IP Australia adapted to the modern challenges of trademark practice by implementing various strategies, including:

  • the streamlining of processes;

  • the introduction of online filing; and

  • the adoption of measures to employ and retain experienced trademark examiners and other skilled staff.

This has not only led to improved efficiency and service, but also encouraged traders to protect their trademarks more effectively as the trademark system has become more accessible and cost effective (see Australia IP Focus 2005, "The IP Australia Approach", November 2005, Managing Intellectual Property, 58). It has also improved the international competitiveness of the Australian trademark system, thereby promoting international investment and trade in Australia.

The strategic statement of IP Australia sits comfortably with existing measures to improve trademark practice and enhance stakeholder confidence in the system. In particular, it focuses on streamlining and aligning domestic and international processes and practice in order to:

  • improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness;

  • reduce the overall cost of trademark rights for applicants;

  • improve the quality of trademark rights; and

  • pursue continuous improvements in current processes.

The statement also aims to promote the profile of IP Australia both domestically and internationally in a way that will enable the organization to influence the development and outcomes of the global trademark system and facilitate increased investment and trade.

In order to achieve the above purpose and vision, the strategic statement identifies key result areas and objectives. However, it does not identify any specific areas of the IP system, let alone of the trademark system, requiring improvement. Rather, the objectives are general in nature and merely restate what is already known, expected or has recently been put into practice by IP Australia and other leading IP offices around the world. Notwithstanding this apparent shortcoming, the value of the strategic statement for trademark practice lies in its recognition that the trademark system cannot be left stagnant, but must continue to be streamlined and refined in line with a changing "globalized knowledge economy". In this respect, it establishes the seeds for developing a robust and dynamic trademark system. It remains to be seen whether the vision and purpose of the strategic statement will translate into positive and beneficial outcomes for the trademark system in Australia.

Stephen Stern and Faisal Mian, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Melbourne

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