IP Australia has recommended that Australia not join the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (Hague Agreement) in its March 2018 cost-benefit analysis and report in which it found that the costs outweigh the benefits.

This is despite other countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States of America, opting to become signatories. The Hague Agreement Report is the Government’s first attempt at applying the Productivity Commission’s call for any proposals to reform intellectual property laws to be economically justified and reflective of best practice.

IP Australia found joining the Hague Agreement would provide Australian designers easier access to international markets in 68 countries by the filing of a single design application and that the increase in term of protection from 10 to 15 years would be beneficial. Overall, however, IP Australia determined that the costs outweighed these benefits due to the increased costs to consumers, despite these costs being both difficult to assess and prospective in nature. IP Australia observed that the evidence demonstrates non-residents currently file almost three times more designs in Australia than resident Australians file abroad and non-residents maintain these registrations longer on average. Furthermore, Australian applicants can file design applications already through the Hague Agreement, despite Australia not being a signatory.

IP Australia noted that fostering Australian based innovation while protecting against increased costs to consumers is a difficult balance to achieve and that it may be that the costs and benefits can only be assessed at a later date should Australia join the Hague Agreement. IP Australia is seeking submissions by 31 May 2018, mainly in respect of the Report and the economic analysis, but it will also welcome feedback on any unquantified impacts, case studies and experiences of current users of the Hague system. Information on how to make submissions is available on IP Australia's public consultation page, or you can contact us.

Thank you to Victoria Bell, Anna Harley and Felipe Pereira for their assistance in preparing this alert.

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