Best Law Firms Australia: Strides in Energy and Intellectual Property Law

Energy and intellectual property law are currently making significant progress in Australia, achieving stellar outcomes in both the private and public sectors.

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Amanda Smith

June 28, 2024 03:37 PM

With Australia’s goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050, there’s a strong focus on clean energy projects in the transport sector – which is projected to be the country’s largest source of emissions by 2030. Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) are becoming a key feature in contracts to improve the public transport Australians and travelers rely on daily, such as the Manly Fast Ferry.

One of the world’s largest renewable developments, the Australia-Asia PowerLink (SunCable), set to power 15% of Singapore, is a significant energy project that also required legal representation to make changes to current public-private agreements.

Energy Law

Australia is a world leader in clean energy strategies, aiming to reach net zero emissions by 2050. In the first quarter of 2024, renewables constituted one-third of Australia's electricity usage. Meeting the nation's ambitious climate goals in the coming decades requires new legislation impacting Australia's industries.

Law firm Grondal Bruining commented on the major reforms to the Australian Safeguard Mechanism and their potential implications for the international competitiveness of Australia's industries.

One of the country's significant energy projects is the Australia-Asia PowerLink (SunCable), a $30 billion high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system to transport solar energy from Darwin to Singapore, that's expected to power 15% of Singapore's electricity needs.

Infralegal is advising on the project, which is positioned to be one of the world's largest renewable developments. The Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments have awarded it major project status and added it to Infrastructure Australia's Priority Initiative List. Infralegal Principal Owen Hayford reported its significance lies in its pioneering export potential.

"From a legal perspective, building and maintaining the electricity transmission infrastructure within an operational railway corridor leased to Aurizon under a PPP arrangement will require novel adjustments and additions to the existing PPP contracts," Hayford said.

The project will underpin a new phase of green industrial development at the Middle Arm precinct in Darwin, creating new renewable energy export markets for Australia and pioneering more innovative technology for renewable energy transmission.

From energy transmission to public transport, Infralegal advises the NRMA on its contract with Transport for New South Wales to provide the Manly Fast Ferry service, which thousands of city and north shore commuters use.

Infralegal's role includes advising on contractual targets and incentives to reduce the ferry service's Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by more than 65%, enabling Transport for New South Wales to achieve its 2030 target of 65% GHG emission reductions.

Hayford concluded that with Australia's transport sector a major producer of the country's GHG emissions, contractual commitments to reduce emissions are becoming a key feature of contracts for the private sector's provision of public transport services.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (IP) is an evolving part of Australian law, with emerging technology presenting new challenges and opportunities. With reforms on the horizon, cases are becoming more complex than traditional IP disputes.

As the internet ushers in a new environment, so will artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain technology, no-code software and the growth of the creator economy. With policy amendments and reclassifications expected in droves, 2024 will be a year of change for IP law.

With the advent of technological innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI) and digital assets, advancements can outpace current IP legislation, leading to unique legal cases.

A significant IP case in Australia was a breach of copyright in code. The case relates to copyright in source code used in a real estate online tool and subsequent marketing activities. The infringer was the software developer engaged by the real estate franchise. The case shed light on the swift action against the alleged copyright infringers and the consequences befalling unknowing parties involved, directly and indirectly.

The High Court of Australia ruled that companies indifferent' to copyright infringement can be held liable; however, specific evidence is required.

IP specialist firm George Legal reported on how non-fungible tokens (NFTs) fit within Australia's current IP law. The potential for copyright infringements in the NFT space is a growing concern for artists and asset owners.

IP Australia has stated that an NFT is not a suitable service but a means of certification. NFTs aren't currently recognized as legal assets or financial products. George Legal states NFTs are classified based on the applicable goods or service class.

A proposal for a regulatory apparatus involving digital asset platforms was presented in October 2023, which will further clarify NFTs' place within IP law.

Griffith Hack has also represented a significant IP dispute regarding software and data tools – the most notable being the patent infringement proceedings regarding core drilling tools on behalf of Globaltech.

The firm also led a separate IP case in Australia, highlighting reputation's relevance in trademark infringements. Griffith Hack represented Allergan, the multinational pharmaceutical company better known as the maker of Botox. The case elevated the legal question of possible trademark infringement while promoting an alternative product. This trademark case reached the High Court of Australia.

Amanda Smith is an accomplished journalist and writer. She reports on culture, human interest, business and technology. Smith has covered the metaverse lawyer, the cryptocurrency regulatory conversation, social commentary during the pandemic and presidential election and LGBTQ+ rights. She’s a regular columnist for NerdWallet Australia. Her work has been published in respected titles such as The Guardian, Business Insider, News Corp, National Geographic, MIT Technology Review and NerdWallet. Amanda is an Australian, living in the cultural center that is New York City.

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