137. Consistent with the 18 May WHA resolution, Australia recognizes the need for universal, timely, and equitable access to essential health technologies and products consistent with the TRIPS Agreement. Australia stresses the vital role of IP in incentivizing the often costly and timely development of important health products, including vaccines. In this time of crisis, the TRIPS Agreement should support quick, fair, predictable and implementable access arrangements to vital health products. We recognize the need for all Members to understand their rights and obligations under the TRIPS Agreement, including its flexibilities. To this end, we support the provision of information to Members regarding key articles of the Agreement. It is our view that a harmonious, well-functioning and clearly understood international IP framework, underpinned by the TRIPS Agreement and the rights of IP holders, is crucial to ensuring that Members can address the challenges posed by COVID-19.
138. We support efforts by the TRIPS Secretariat to increase transparency around best practices during these unprecedented times. We note the World Intellectual Property Organization has established a Policy Tracker to monitor IP-related relief measures introduced by IP offices across the world.
Australia's IP-related measures
139. On 22 April 2020, IP Australia put in place a streamlined process to provide extensions of time to assist customers impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Under the streamlined process, extensions of time of up to three months are available free of charge. Customers can simply tick a box in IP Australia's eServices system to declare that they are unable to meet a deadline due to disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. No further documents need to be uploaded and the extension of time fee will be automatically waived.
140. The relief measures will be continued until at least 31 August 2020. Customers will be provided with at least one week's notice prior to the measures ceasing.
141. These streamlined, free extensions apply to most of IP Australia's fees but not to renewals.
142. Around 1500 requests for extensions of time were received through eServices from 22 April 2020 to 21 July 2020 (1204 trademarks, 255 patents, 18 designs). Most requests have been granted with some still under consideration.
143. A trademark service that provides free support and assistance for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic has also been established. The service provides information about trademark registration in the current environment. Our assistance does not guarantee registration of their trademark nor does it offer business or legal advice. For business and legal advice, customers will continue to be encouraged to contact an intellectual property attorney or a business advisor.