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Intellectual Property and the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement

After years of negotiation, the China-Australia Free trade Agreement (ChAFTA) was signed on 17 June 2015 by the governments of both countries.  Chapter 11 of the agreement relates specifically to Intellectual Property issues.

For the most part, the agreement concerning Intellectual Property issues do not create any groundbreaking change and the principal thrust is an affirmation by both countries to their commitment to their obligations under the TRIPS Agreement and other multilateral agreements relating to Intellectual Property to which they are a party.  Nevertheless, there are some issues that are worth noting.

Transparency

There was an overall all theme of providing transparency pertaining to each countries IP systems.  One focused agreement was an obligation on both countries to provide internet access to all IP registers and to improve communication in cases where an intellectual property right is to be refused.

Improving IP Systems

Both countries have pledged to continue to work to enhance and improve the quality and efficiency of examination and registration in their IP systems.  In this regard, both countries have agreed to working cooperatively in order to find ways that can mutually benefit the IP systems of both countries.  A key aim is to reduce the complexity and costs involved in seeking IP protection.

Border Measures

This agreement concerned strengthening laws and systems to combat the import and export of counterfeit and pirated goods.  A focused aspect concerned improving systems to prevent the export of counterfeit or pirated goods.

Doha Declaration

Both countries highlighted a commitment to contribute to efforts to implement paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration.  This pertains to the issue of finding ways to provide needed medicines subject to patent rights to less developed countries.  It has been noted that the existence of patent rights which act as a barrier to the supply of needed medicine in times of humanitarian crisis should be able to be circumvented for the purpose of international aid.

Summary

The agreement, in relation to IP, does at least offer promise in direction of mutual improvements to the Chinese and Australian IP systems.  In the long term this will assist Australian businesses with valuable IP when exporting to and conducting business in China.