550. Australia commends Japan for their support in preparing the communication and is pleased to be able to co-sponsor it.
551. Australia recognizes the key role that micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) play in spurring economic growth and development they are often responsible for innovative services and technology, which in turn helps create new jobs and businesses.
552. Intellectual property is integral to these outcomes. The ability to register, protect and enforce intellectual property rights is critical.
553. Australia recognizes that MSMEs have been particularly impacted by the global pandemic, domestically and globally, and initiatives designed to target and support MSMEs in the current climate are particularly important.
554. MSMEs have worked hard to continue and in many cases transform their operations, whether through online deliveries, virtual events or the adoption of new digital platforms.
555. This readiness to innovate has been a key factor in Australia's response to the immediate challenges resulting from the COVID-19 crisis and will be central to helping all businesses and the global economy bounce back.
556. Meanwhile, Australia's official development assistance continues to support the transfer of business information and know-how to least developed countries, which in turn helps MSMEs in these economies develop and grow.
557. In Australia, small and medium businesses, including their owners and employees, are the heart of the Australian economy the sector comprises roughly 99.7% of the actively-trading business in the country this translates to over two million SMEs powering the economy, according to data from the SME Association of Australia.
558. Australia has commenced a review into the accessibility of the patent system for MSMEs. The Patents Accessibility Review will consider:
a. the cost of applications for patents;
b. processing times of patents;
c. advice provided by the Australian Government with respect to the patent application process;
d. awareness of the patent application process;
e. the cost and times required to enforce standard patents;
f. any other barriers or impediments that prevent Australian businesses filing and obtaining patents; and
g. Government programmes to assist Australian MSMEs seeking patent protection, including protection overseas.
559. In 2018 the Australian Government conducted a stakeholder consultation process to better understand the needs of innovative Australian MSMEs seeking to commercialise their business ideas. In 2019 a public discussion paper was released summarising the findings of the consultation, and the Australian Government will consider the submissions to this consultation paper in light of any overlapping issues identified by the Patents Accessibility Review.
560. The communication asks about the development of IP strategies that reduce the risk of IP litigation. For Australia, it is important to create regulatory environments that allow MSMEs to create valuable IP portfolios where they can protect their brand and ideas
561. By building an enforceable and accessible intellectual property regime, governments can help minimise the risk of litigation and help their MSMEs prosper and grow and we see the commitments in the TRIPS Agreement as integral to this.
562. The communication also asks about the development of successful IP portfolios. Australia's IP system supports MSMEs to develop portfolios of diverse IP rights, recognizing that these portfolios can help MSMEs establish themselves in a market.
563. Our portal for small and medium enterprises (found at ) provides a useful resource for MSMEs looking to better understand the intellectual property system and the process involved in developing an IP portfolio.
564. The portal provides a detailed case management tool to help MSME's navigate Australia's patent system, as well as fast track services to help businesses expedite their IP registration applications.
565. For example, a father and son team in New South Wales, Australia, developed a system to harvest honey directly from the hive without opening it and disrupting the bees. Despite being a two-man small business, Australia's patent system allowed the team to quickly protect their idea. This allowed the team to launch their product, named Flow-Hive, without extended administrative delays, confident that their rights would not be infringed. Flow-Hive quickly achieved over USD 12 million in sales and won Australia's top design award. Stories like this are made possible by simple, easy to access intellectual property rules.
566. While it is focused on the Australian market, Australia's SME portal also provides webinars and workshops designed to educate earlystage businesses on the basics of IP
567. These education materials may be useful for a range of MSMEs in different markets and jurisdictions, looking to understand the basics of IP protection.
568. We look forward to engaging with Members on how to support MSMEs develop IP creation and management strategies.