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Technology Trends In Electronics

/ Martin Pannall / Articles

Electronics pervades nearly every aspect of our lives, from the latest consumer gadgets in our homes that entertain us, keep us safe and wake us up in time to get to work, to the electronics that allow us to perform our work, and the electronics that blurs the line between home and work such as mobile communication networks and devices.

Electronic components and electronic devices are becoming more and more portable to allow the consumer to take their electronic life wherever they go.

It is difficult to pinpoint one particular developing trend in electronics over others, since electronics is used in nearly all areas of modern endeavour. Broad areas that have recently received much media attention include renewable energy, 3D printing, and wearable electronics.

One particular area that appears to attract much activity is that of medical technology and in particular, the integration of medical devices with the human body, whether used inside the body as an implant, or outside the body as a piece of wearable apparatus.

The most recent patent statistics analysis1 published by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) indicates that the most active patent area for Australian-originating patent applicants, is medical technology, with 4,558 patent applications filed in that area between 2007 and 2011, the greatest number of patent applications from Australia in all of the 35 technology fields covered in the study.

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When is a trade mark known more as a mark than what it means in a non-English language?

/ Lucy Deane / Articles

AMORE, GIALLO, FELICE, BELLO, BLANC BLEU are but a handful of the many foreign language words that are registered as trade marks in Australia.

But care must be taken not to assume (as one may be tempted to from a cursory glance at the Australian Register of Trade Marks) that words in a non-English language will more easily satisfy the requirements for registration as a trade mark in Australia.

The registration requirement of most relevance to trade marks comprising foreign language words is the requirement (set out in section 41 of the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth)) that a trade mark be “capable of distinguishing” the applicant’s goods or services from those of other persons.

When considering the application of section 41, the relevant enquiry will initially be whether a trade mark is “inherently adapted to distinguish” the applicant’s goods or services.  If a trade mark is “inherently” or prima facie adapted to distinguish, it will not attract an objection to registration under section 41.

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How to keep a secret: prohibition orders on patents

/ Bill McFarlane / Articles

Patent applications are normally published, and the information in them made publicly available, eighteen months from the earliest priority date. However, the patent system in Australia empowers the Government to deem a patent as SECRET, in which case publication of any of the details of the patent is prohibited until such time as the ‘prohibition order’ is rescinded.

In Australia, the Commissioner of Patents can order the prohibition of publication of all information in relation to a patent application and from that point IP Australia will not make any information about the filing public. The mechanism for invoking the order can vary; typically the Department of Defence will make a request to impose a prohibition order in respect of a particular patent application. Alternatively, IP Australia may consider that a patent application discloses information that may be SECRET according to the Department of Defence information classification system. IP Australia will then make that application available to the Department of Defence for assessment and, if any part of that disclosure meets the relevant criteria, a prohibition order is placed on the application.

Once a prohibition order is placed on an application it will be dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Act. An Examiner with security clearance will examine the specification to determine whether it is in order for allowance, and then issue an Examination Report or a Notice of Allowance if allowable. However, from that point on the application is suspended in the application phase and is not processed further. Furthermore, whilst the prohibition order remains in place, publication or communication of any of the subject matter of the patent application is prohibited or restricted, thereby effectively preventing commercialisation of the invention.

The period of the prohibition order may be as long as the potential life of the patent, in which case the patent will never be enforceable. However, once the Department of Defence no longer considers the information secret the prohibition order can be rescinded and the patent application is placed into the normal patent system by being advertised accepted and then published in the usual way. If there is a commercial application of the previously classified patent, it will then be possible to exploit the value of the patent during its remaining life.

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