21 January 2011

Who Is the Commissioner of Patents?

While we have seen no official announcement, it appears that over the New Year break there may have been a change to the holder of the office of Commissioner of Patents.

Section 207 of the Patents Act 1990 provides that: '(1) There is to be a Commissioner of Patents'; and '(2) The Commissioner has such powers and functions as are conferred on him or her under this Act or any other Act.'

Many powers and duties are conferred upon the Commissioner under the Act.  However, the current Corporate Structure of IP Australia does not include any position with the title 'Commisioner of Patents'.  The 'head honcho' is Director General Philip Noonan, while Fatima Beattie is the Deputy Director General, with responsibility for operations of the Patent, Trade Marks and Designs Offices.  Within Ms Beattie's area, the Patent and Plant Breeder's Rights Group headed by General Manager Victor Portelli.

For many years, Ms Beattie has held the role of Commissioner which, amongst many other duties, involved having her signature affixed to each issued Patent Deed.  We have noticed, however, that as of at least the start of this year, newly-issued Patent Deeds have been signed 'Victor Portelli / Commissioner of Patents'.

We suspect that, in the modern corporate era, the title of Commissioner of Patents is of largerly historical significance.  While the Act requires that there be a Commissioner, for various purposes, it would be surprising if these aligned precisely with the job description of a specific role within IP Australia.  The title of Commissioner might therefore sensibly be conferred upon any person in the organisation with the necessary authority to fulfill the required functions.  Clearly, as Deputy Director General, Ms Beattie was capable of doing so, however it seems quite reasonable to assign the role of Commissioner to the person with most direct responsibility for the operations of the Patent Office.

So, assuming all the above to be an accurate reflection of the current situation, we congratulate Mr Portelli on his new title, and look forward to seeing his signature on many Patent Deeds to come!

If any readers can enlighten us further as to these movements within IP Australia, we would love to hear from you.


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