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Patent protection reforms promised in Throne Speech

Taxing issue: Andrew Keith Leigh is an Australian politician, Dr Leigh currently serves as the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury (File photograph)

Government is taking action to improve the supervisory platform for an element of international business over which the island continues to face international scrutiny.

In fact, even as new measures are being enacted to make the island’s value proposition more attractive for intellectual property business, one country will try to make it less so.

The Throne Speech promises legislative changes to measures that deal with the oversight of IP, already a lucrative business for Bermuda law firms.

The island is a major centre for this business, and plays host to highly visible global brands, as they seek protection for the valuable IP assets they create, and ways to ensure they can use them to their advantage.

Bermuda and the arthritis medication maker Abbvie were in the news after a US Senate Finance Committee investigation highlighted how the pharmaceutical multinational had been holding a valuable array of patents, trademarks and other intellectual property rights in Bermuda, “the zero-tax jurisdiction … where it (Abbvie) has zero employees”.

And an analysis by Reuters news agency found that AbbVie’s registered patents in Bermuda included those for the bestselling drug Humira, slashing their US tax bill.

Together with the Republican tax cuts the Trump administration had provided to business in 2017, AbbVie’s corporate income tax payments changed drastically from 2017, when compared to the next three years.

The drugmaker avoided paying taxes on US prescription drug sales by shifting its profit overseas, with authorities asking for an explanation as to why they were consistently reporting a net loss in the United States and billions of dollars in net income overseas.

And last month, in an article in The Mandarin, which seemed to confuse Bermuda with Bahamas, Andrew Leigh, Australia’s Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury called the Abbvie case an example of “bad faith business practices”.

He wrote: “Our government will introduce a new rule to limit the ability of large multinationals to claim tax deductions for payments relating to intangibles and royalties paid to low- or no-tax jurisdictions.

“This will ensure that such behaviour is not allowing these companies to minimise or avoid paying tax in Australia.”

Here at home, the United Kingdom’s Intellectual Property Office has been providing insight and coordination as the Bermuda Government has sought to complete the overhaul of trademark, patent and intellectual property laws.

The Throne Speech points out that the UK has been particularly helpful on the development of all forms, fees and regulations.

The statement added: “In this session, the legislature will consider a raft of bills in this area which will provide a more attractive framework for those persons and companies wishing to register their intellectual property in Bermuda.”

It also gave notice that the legislature will be asked to consider specifically the Trade Marks Amendment Bill and the Intellectual Property Reform Bill.

A government webpage states that intellectual property protection helps prevent theft or copy of the names of products, brands, inventions, the design or look of products. That protection is extended to writings and other items made or produced.

Copyrights, designs, trade marks and patents are all types of intellectual property protection.

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Published November 07, 2022 at 7:49 am (Updated November 08, 2022 at 7:54 am)

Patent protection reforms promised in Throne Speech

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