Recent Law Talk Interview – Stepping down as Convenor of IP Law Committee

New Zealand Law Society

LawTalk 875  · 9 October 2015

Very good work over the years

C L I V E   EL L I O TT

The Law Society’s Intellectual Property (IP) Law Committee has done some very good work over the years, according to Clive Elliott QC.

Mr Elliott was the longest serving convenor of a law society specialist committee when he stepped down from the role recently, although he will continue his service as a committee member.

“I think we have contributed to the implementation of ‘as good as you can get’ legislation in the IP area.

“It’s hard to identify any moments of brilliance or any­ thing like that. It’s more down to good, solid hard work and that is where the whole committee has to be thanked. “No individual could do it and we couldn’t do it without the work that is done by the Law Society staff. They’ve been crucial in terms of organising things and refining submissions, and recently they have been very good in terms of keeping up the contact with government depart­ments and other groups.

“It’s a good example of the profession working with the Law Society staff to ensure that our laws are implemented in a satisfactory manner.

“It is never going to be perfect and there is only so much you can do in the law reform process , because ultimately the Law Society is presenting another viewpoint, but I think we are given quite a bit of recognition … and if we say something, it is going to be carefully considered.”

Much of the time, the committee has been talking to the government policy advisers and the drafters of leg­ islation, because they are the ones who really advise the parliamentarians.

Good relationships

The committee has, therefore, built good relationships with people at government agencies such as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), and the Intellectual Property Law Office of New Zealand.

“We have built up a good rapport with them, which we still need to work on. It’s a work in progress.

“It’s an area where we have been quite proactive and we can look back and say that it has been one of our more successful contributions.

“[The law reform staff member] has been really instru­ mental in that in terms of being on the ground and keeping the contact going.”

IP law “is probably not an area that the government pays a huge amount of attention to, because it’s probably not something that’s a vote winner. For example, it took in the order of 50 years for the Patents Act to be changed. That’s a long time for any piece of legislation.”

When that legislation did come up, leading to the Patents Act 2013, it was a major change and “probably the most significant project for the committee in the last few years”. The area where the input of the committee made the most difference was in relation to the regulations, Mr Elliott says.

“We worked very closely with the minis­ try, the MBIE, and the Intellectual Property Law Office to come up with regulations that were fit for purpose and were practical and workable . We tried to find a good balance between certainty and flexibility, which I believe we achieved.”

The committee was able to “put forward something that was pretty robust and I consider that’s been one of our more suc­ cessful contributions”.

The committee also made submissions on the Trade Marks legislation and regula­ tions, which was quite a big piece of work, as well as on legislation around domain names and copyright.

Submissions have also been made on issues such as the Productivity Commission and harmonisation with Australia – in fact on a wide range of issues.

Tireless efforts

“If there is one mention I would make, it would be of the tireless efforts of Doug Calhoun, who’s one of our committee members. Doug is really our eyes and ears in Wellington. He’s a great source of information on what’s going on and what Parliament is up to. As well as keeping a very close eye on things, he is a tireless worker in terms of the committee and he deserves thanks for that.”

When asked if he has enjoyed his time as convenor, Mr Elliott agrees that he has. “I’ve enjoyed working with the really good people who are on the committee and having the odd win. When you see legislation that’s changed on the basis of something the committee has put forward, to see that change is great because you can see you’ve done something useful.

“The main reward is working with really good people to do things in the public interest. That, in itself, has its payback in a personal sense,” Mr Elliott says.

“I personally think it’s very important for members of the profession to become involved in this law reform work.

“Without volunteers, the Law Society law reform work wouldn’t exist.

“It is important that we get new people coming through, and that we get people who are enthused. That’s why it’s good we’ve got a new convenor in Greg Arthur. “It’s good to encourage younger members of the profession to take over. In that way you get fresh ideas and renewed vigour,” Mr Elliott says.

(My kind acknowledgement to the Law Society, the past chair of the Law Reform Committee Paul Rishworth QC and Frank Neill the editor of LawTalk)

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