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Intellectual property

Intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) is an integral part of international trade and is increasingly important to the Australian economy. It's in our interest to promote agreed international standards on the protection and exploitation of IP rights which help underpin trade and investment, and enable innovation and creativity.

About intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) includes:

  • patents
  • trade marks
  • copyright and related rights
  • geographical indications
  • industrial designs
  • plant breeder's rights
  • know-how and trade secrets.

IP in Australia

Australia's IP stocks are valued at $246.9 billion, with estimated expenditure on IP products in Australia of $37.4 billion (ABS National Accounts for 2017–2018, 5204.0).

Trade in IP for Australia in 2017–18 was worth $1.382 billion (exports) and $6.284 billion (imports) (Australian Bureau of Statistics ABS, International Trade in Goods and Services, August 2018 5368.0.).

Australia is a net exporter of IP to non-OECD countries, and international studies indicate the significant contribution IP-related industries make to employment in Australia. IP-related industries play an important role driving Australia's international competitiveness in innovation - Australia is in the top 20 economies on the Global Innovation Index – (2018) (Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization). IP imports and exports also support the development of Australian industries such as the mining, services, innovation and technology, and creative industries.

Protecting our IP interests

Australia has a strong tradition of research and innovation and a need for access to new technologies, underpinning an interest in agreed effective and balanced international standards of protection and exploitation of IP rights. We protect those interests by working across the international IP arena, particularly within the:

  • World Trade Organization (WTO) to promote balanced implementation and development of the WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
  • World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).


The TRIPS Agreement is one of the set of agreements making up the integrated WTO system of trade rules.

TRIPS supports the contribution of IP systems to economic growth through trade and investment by:

  • establishing minimum standards for IP rights protection in the national systems of WTO Members
  • prescribing agreed mechanisms for administration and enforcement of IP rights
  • creating a transparency mechanism – each WTO Member is required to provide details of their national IP laws and systems, and to answer questions about their IP systems
  • creating a predictable, rules-based system for the settlement of disputes about trade-related IP issues between WTO Members
  • allowing for mechanisms that ensure national IP systems support widely accepted public policy objectives such as stamping out unfair competition, facilitating transfer of technology and promoting environmental protection.

Part of the TRIPS package is an undertaking by member economies to provide technical assistance for the implementation of TRIPS. Australia supports the development of TRIPS-consistent IP systems in developing countries in our region.

Geographical indications

Geographical indications identify a good as originating in a specific territory, region or locality where a particular quality, reputation or other characteristic is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.

Australia has been an active participant in the WTO negotiations for a multilateral register for wine and spirit geographical indications. The WTO website provides information on the history of the geographical indications negotiations.

Australia provides robust protections for geographical indications (GIs). The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources manages wine GIs and IP Australia is responsible for the registration of GIs as certification trade marks for all goods. Food Standards Australia New Zealand provides further enforcement mechanism for GIs for spirits.

TRIPS and WTO dispute settlement

The TRIPS Agreement established a binding, transparent and rules-based dispute settlement mechanism. The WTO Understanding on the Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes enforces the commitments made by WTO Members under TRIPS.

A binding dispute settlement mechanism to enforce obligations under TRIPS can support Australian exporters to expand and diversify trading opportunities in IP and value-added products.

World Intellectual Property Organization

Australia is an active member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations agency responsible for international IP administration, services and policy development.

Australia is involved across the WIPO agenda, including the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge and Folklore.

WIPO has welcomed Australia's continuing support for initiatives to build intellectual property capacity through the WIPO Australia Funds In Trust arrangement, to assist least developed and developing countries to promote creativity and innovation through the IP and multilateral system.

DFAT works closely with IP Australia and the Department of Communications and the Arts on Australia's IP commitments.

In 2015 Australia announced its ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled. This WIPO Treaty addresses the limited global availability of works in formats accessible to people with a print disability. Electronic (braille-accessible) copies of this treaty are available.

IP in free trade agreements

Australia looks to include commitments on IP in our free trade agreements to address developments in, and achieve a consistent international approach to, IP protection and enforcement.

Free trade agreements support Australia's intellectual property interests and do not drive domestic policy outcomes.

Under the ASEAN–Australia–New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), Australia co-chairs the Intellectual Property Committee with Singapore and New Zealand. The committee continues to develop capacity-building programs to support AANZFTA IP protection, capacity building and cooperation in our region.

APEC IP Experts Group

The APEC Intellectual Property Experts' Group (IPEG) promotes efficient, TRIPS-consistent IP protection among our APEC trading partners.

More about IP


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