On 11 May, the Federal Government announced its long awaited changes to Intellectual Property Policy. These changes were widely welcomed by the IT industry and were seen as a major win for the AIIA who had been lobbying hard on this issue for some time.
So, what do the changes really mean?
The government’s Statement of IP Principles provides a broad framework at the start of a long journey. At this point, it delivers few concrete outcomes. The Principles apply to all agencies covered by the FMA Act and come into effect on 1 July 2008. More details are expected later this year when the government publishes its guidebook called the IP Better Practice Manual.
The Statement of IP Principles requires each government agency to develop its own IP management framework and to integrate the framework into its standard corporate governance procedures. The outcome will be clear IP management guidelines that are specific to each agency.
The really important change for the IT industry is contained in Principles 13 and 14. These require that “agencies should be responsive to opportunities for commercial use and exploitation of IP, including by the private sector.” ….. “Unless commercial activities are required as an integral part of an agency’s objectives, commercialisation of IP by an agency should be no more than an ancillary part of its activities and should not become a core business activity”.
This is exactly the case the IT industry has been mounting for some years. A great deal of intellectual property is locked up in government agencies. Unfortunately, because commercialisation is typically not a significant consideration at the time that bespoke systems are developed, subsequent commercialisation can be expensive and risk prone. Given modern trends toward Service Oriented Architectures, the time is right to look at the broader application of IP that continues to be locked up in government IT systems. Commercialisation is not the core business of government agencies, but it is an area where the private sector has a great deal of expertise.
The Statement of IP Principles now clarifies these issues and provides a firm base for moving ahead.