DCCL COVID-19 Resource Centre: Issue 4
6 May 2020
This is our fourth publication of useful resources for our clients during the current coronavirus disruption. Our previous publications are available here. Clients are welcome to raise specific issues which they would like us to comment upon in future publications.
Privacy issues and the new Australian COVIDSafe app
On 26 April 2020, the Australian government launched the COVIDSafe coronavirus contact tracing app. Many stakeholders have raised privacy concerns regarding the data collected by these apps. Draft legislation released on 5 May 2020, which will govern the operation of the app, seeks to address those concerns. An article published on our website comments on how the key privacy issues presently prescribed by Australian law are addressed by the COVIDSafe app, and looks at the potential power of US and Australian law enforcement agencies to exercise access rights to data collected by the app.
Davies Collison Cave Law principal Dr Gordon Hughes AM discusses these issues further in a 20 minute video (which counts towards substantive law CPD requirements for Australian lawyers).
Impact of COVID-19 on obligations arising in IP agreements
Parties to intellectual property agreements are likely to be impacted in some way by the current COVID-19 disruption. Our website article considers how, in the current circumstances, certain provisions in overseas and Australian laws, including prohibitions contained within the Australian Consumer Law, might affect contractual rights and obligations in intellectual property arrangements such as IP licences.
New South Wales: Video-conference can now be used to witness signatures
New South Wales is the first state in Australia to allow (at least until 22 October 2020) documents to be witnessed over audio visual link, including over video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom, FaceTime and Microsoft Teams. We have published an article on our website, which sets out which types of documents can be witnessed using audio visual link and outlines the requirements that must be met to ensure the legal effect of witnessing a document using audio visual link in New South Wales is the same as if the document were witnessed in person. This development enables documents to be executed more readily while working remotely.
Virtual trials go ahead in the Federal Court of Australia
Currently, parties are continuing to appear in the Federal Court of Australia remotely using video-link (primarily through Microsoft Teams). Our experience is that the technology has worked well for the short (half to full day) hearings and the Court-led mediations our clients have been involved in to date.
Recently, a number of parties have applied for orders that “virtual” trials be adjourned until they can occur “in person”, on the basis that the matters in dispute cannot fairly or practicably to be heard remotely. An article published on our website comments on three recent decisions determining whether or not a trial was suitable to be heard remotely. In two of those cases, the trials were required to proceed remotely as planned, and in the other case, the trial was adjourned until it can occur “in person”. Our article provides further information about the Federal Court’s current approach to virtual trials and in particular, factors that will be taken into account when the Court determines whether or not a trial should proceed remotely.
Victoria: Temporary Relief Measures for Landlords and Tenants of Eligible Commercial Leases
On 1 May 2020, the Victorian government published the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) (Commercial Leases and Licences) Regulations 2020 (Vic), which implement temporary relief measures for eligible commercial landlords and tenants. While the measures are in effect, landlords are, amongst other things, prohibited from terminating eligible leases, taking possession, drawing on a tenant’s security for the non-payment of rent or reducing trading hours. Further details on these measures, including eligibility requirements, are in our website article.
Intellectual Property Offices offer relief
Davies Collison Cave’s website provides a summary of measures being taken by national IP Offices to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Australia, until at least 31 May 2020, users impacted by the COVID-19 disruption may apply for “exceptional” extensions of time, of up to three months, for many deadlines arising in relation to applications for Australian patents, trade marks and registered designs (but not for payment of renewal fees). More details of this initiative, and other measures adopted by IP Australia, are provided in Davies Collison Cave’s website article and on the IP Australia website.
Davies Collison Cave’s Singapore office has published an update on how countries in the ASEAN region are ensuring that patent prosecution and filing procedures are not disrupted during this time.
Australian State government actions for business, employees, landlords and tenants
In addition to various measures implemented by the Federal Government in response to COVID-19 (some of which are covered in our previous publications), state and territory governments have announced a range of initiatives intended to alleviate financial hardship caused by the coronavirus disruption.
Our previous publications
Our 21 April 2020 Legal Resource Centre publication is here. In brief, it provides information about:
- New tax incentives for certain IP expenditure.
- Privacy issues relating to the Australian government’s (then) planned coronavirus contact tracing app.
- IP licences for technology relating to COVID-19 in the context of the “Open COVID Pledge” and compulsory licences under the Australian Patents Act 1990 (Cth).
- The introduction of a mandatory code of conduct for Australian SME commercial tenancies for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Changes to the Foreign Investment Review Board approval process for the acquisition of developed commercial property or businesses.
- Further interim authorisations granted by the ACCC allowing certain businesses operating in the healthcare sector, the financial lending sector and the health and life insurance industry to develop a coordinated response with their competitors, which, without authorisation, might otherwise constitute prohibited “cartel conduct”. Further information about the introduction of these ACCC interim authorisations is available in our website article.
Our 8 April 2020 Legal Resource Centre publication is here. In brief, it provides information about:
- COVID-19 privacy issues in the workplace.
- Contractual obligations in relation to COVID-19, including force majeure and frustration.
- COVID-19, cartel conduct and ACCC interim authorisations issued to various industries.
- Consumer rights and business obligations regarding COVID-19 event cancellations.
- COVID-19 medicines which have received exemptions from registration on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
- Changes to Corporations Act, Bankruptcy Act in relation to insolvency and financial distress. Details are set out in the Federal Government’s Fact Sheet.
- Changes to the foreign investment framework which are designed to prevent corporate raiding of distressed Australian companies by foreign investors.
- Estate planning and business succession planning.
Our 31 March 2020 Legal Resource Centre publication is here. In brief, it provides information about:
- The continuing operation of the Australian courts. Up-to-date information is available from the Judicial College website.
- The use of electronic signatures in a remote working Australia.
- ACCC information on the impact of COVID-19 for consumers and businesses. Up-to-date information is available on the ACCC’s dedicated website page.
If you have any queries, please get in touch with one of the principals in our COVID-19 Legal Resource Team:
Dr Gordon Hughes AM
P: +61 3 9254 2582
Craig Finlayson CTA
P: +61 3 9254 2716
P: +61 2 9293 1048