According to the 2016 Australian Innovation System Report, investment in IP facilitates business growth and spurs productivity improvements. There is a significant correlation between IP protection on the one hand, and research and development, and new-to-market innovation on the other.
We recently published an article about China’s efforts to transition from an economy driven primarily by manufacturing goods to an IP-driven economy, and how they are evolving their IP systems to achieve this goal. By contrast, according to a recent government report, Australia remains a net consumer (rather than producer) of technology. The Inquiry Report into Intellectual Property Arrangements recently published by the Productivity Commission (Report) argues that, in light of this position as a net consumer, Australia’s IP system is weighted too heavily in favour of rights holders and against the interests of the broader community. It has made various recommendations to correct this perceived imbalance. This article considers some of the recommended changes.
However, some of these recommendations, if implemented, will also have the consequence of limiting IP protection, which will have a flow-on effect on the economic incentive to invest in innovation. This appears to be at odds with the objectives of the Australian Government’s $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, which aims to stimulate an “ideas boom” and economic growth in key sectors such as science, technology and business innovations.
One of the most important means of encouraging innovation is through a robust and effective IP system. Without this, it will be difficult for Australia to compete in the global marketplace as an innovation economy. Therefore, Australian businesses, consumers and the Government should be asking: should Australia be aiming for an innovation-based economy, or one reliant on manufacturing and mining?
Assuming we do want to move more fully towards an innovation economy, strong economic arguments exist to support moves towards a stronger IP protection system, rather than the opposite approach seemingly being considered by the Report.