Olympic insignia protection strengthened
The Bill amends the Olympic Insignia Protection Act 1987 (Cth) ("OIP Act") to reinforce the synergy with the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth). Notably, it:
- Authorizes the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to register Olympic insignia as trade marks, the aim being to remove the uncertainty around whether the IOC and AOC can obtain registration of Olympic insignia and to enhance protection against unauthorized use.
- Removes the legal inconsistency in the application of the OIP Act and the Trade Marks Act. While the Trade Marks Act provides grounds for rejecting a trade mark if its use would be contrary to law, the OIP Act prevents registration of trade marks containing relevant Olympic insignia and is not based on their use. The new section provides that, for the assessment of contrary to law under section 42(b) of the Trade Marks Act during examination or opposition of a trade mark application, use of a protected trade mark will be taken to be contrary to law. "Protected trade marks" means marks containing, or consisting of the following signs or a sign so nearly resembling these signs as to be likely to be taken for that sign: the Olympic motto, the Olympic symbol, prescribed artistic work of an Olympic torch and flame, and artistic works in relation to which designs have been registered under the OIP Act.
There are no exceptions to this prohibition. While the AOC or IOC may authorize the use of Olympic insignia, authorized users are not permitted to register a trade mark containing protected Olympic insignia.
Trade Marks Act: Fine-tuning operations
Several minor yet important amendments are made to the Trade Marks Act. These include:
- Standardizing the grace period for trade mark renewal fee payments to six months. While registrations generally have a renewal grace period of six months, the legislation currently provides a 10-month grace period for trade mark applications that are pending beyond 10 years. According to the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill, “as of May 2023, only 20 of 72,000 total pending applications were filed more than 10 years ago”. Given this small number of applications, an additional four months in grace period for these few cases has been deemed unnecessary. The amendment will simplify the administration of trade mark renewals.
- Allowing for the revocation of trade mark registration if a notice of opposition, or a component of it, is overlooked.
- Permitting restoration of a removed trade mark where an extension of time is granted to file evidence in support of an opposition to trade mark removal.
- Removing all references to the Official Journal of Trade Marks in the Trade Marks Act. The legislation is being modernized with format and technology agnostic terminology.
Patents Act: Spent provisions
The Bill repeals certain obsolete sections of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth), removing outdated transitional provisions and aligning the legislation with current practices. As these are redundant transitional and savings provisions, the amendments will ensure that the Act remains current and only contains relevant provisions.
The Bill seeks to implement very specific yet important changes, particularly enhancing the protection of Olympic insignia. The amendments also refine procedural aspects that stakeholders should be aware of. For entities managing or considering Olympic-related trade marks, understanding and applying these changes will be important to maintaining compliance and securing the associated rights.