IP Australia have just released their fourth ‘Australian Intellectual Property Report’[1] (the Report), and for those with an interest in the number of filings in the various categories of intellectual property (IP) which IP Australia administers, makes for interesting reading.

The Report is aimed at promoting awareness of IP rights and discussing the latest IP statistics.  In particular, the Report explores IP trends in Australia and notes that growth in protecting ideas is being seen “across the board”, leading the authors to conclude that “innovation and entrepreneurship in Australia are increasing”.  The Report details that trade mark applications rose sharply in 2015, recording a 14% growth.  Patents, too, are up 10%, with designs and plant breeder’s rights (PBRs) each recording around 5% growth. The number of trade mark and design filings are at record levels.

Patents

IP Australia received around 28,600 standard patent applications in 2015, which is an increase of 10% from 2014.  However, when an annualised average is taken since 2009, the increase is closer to 3% annual growth year on year, which is similar to growth in patent applications worldwide as reported by WIPO[2]– the large swings in filings in 2013/2014 are likely to be artefacts from the introduction of the IP Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Act 2012 amendments which encouraged applicants to bring forward national phase entry. The data does, however, confirm that national phase entry from PCT applications is the preferred filing route, with 21,000 national phase entries and around 7,500 direct entries recorded last year.  Filings by non-residents increased by 10% in 2015 and made up the majority of patent applications. Non-residents were responsible for just over 90% of applications in 2015 with the United States the biggest contributor.

Of major concern, however, is the persistent decline in the filing of provisional applications over the past decade.  Just over 7,000 provisional applications were filed in 2006, which has now dropped by over 25%.  The authors of the Report do not speculate on the reasons for the decline, but noting that 95% of provisional applications are filed by Australians or Australian entities, and assuming that the number of provisional applications filed is one indicator of Australian innovation and entrepreneurship, it would seem that fewer and fewer Australian innovations are being developed and protected. The Report does note, however, that there has been a modest gain in the filing of provisional applications over the last couple of years, which perhaps is an encouraging sign for the future.

There was an increase in the demand for innovation patents in 2015, with just over 1,800 applications filed. The majority of innovation patent applications are made by Australian residents who, in 2015, accounted for just over 60% of filings. China remained the single largest source of non-resident applications, followed by the US and Taiwan.

Trade Marks

In 2015, over 73,000 trade mark applications were received from IP Australia, which represents a significantly higher growth rate than the average annual growth rate of 2% over the period 2010 to 2014. This growth in filings is attributed largely to growth in direct applications, which made up 80% of trade mark applications in Australia in 2015, as opposed to applications through WIPO’s Madrid route. Of the 14% growth last year, direct applications accounted for approximately 9% of the total growth. Non-residents held a lower share of trade mark applications (36%) in 2015 when compared to residents (64%).

The 3 classes in the Nice Classification system that received the most applications in 2015 were: advertising and business functions, apparatus and instruments, and education and other services.

Designs

Just over 7,000 applications were filed in 2015, which is a 5% increase over the previous year. Non-residents accounted for 60% of design rights applications in 2015, which is similar to the 2014 ratio, and is up from earlier years. On average, about 1,000 designs are certified each year.

Who uses IP rights in Australia?

Across all the applications received in 2015 by IP Australia, 52% of applications were from non-residents, 33% were from Australian small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), 13% were from private applicants, and 2% from large firms. The share of applications filed by Australian SMEs has gradually increased over the last 10 years, with patent figures showing the most notable rise.  The Report also notes that, on a pro rata basis, firms that are over 10 years old tend to file more IP rights than firms that are newer. The Report also suggests that firms having IP rights tend to ‘live’ longer than firms without.

The top 3 patent filers for the years 2011 to 2015 were, in order: Halliburton Energy, Samsung, and Covidien. The top 3 trade mark filers over the same period were: Remarqueble, Applied Marks, and Monitor.  The top 3 Design filers were: Forever New Clothing, Samsung and Microsoft.  While most applicants only file for one right across each of the IP rights, close to half of applications come from the top 5% of applicants (as measured by their number of applications).

Conclusions

Apart from the statistics, the report also details IP Australia’s initiatives to promote innovation and address the needs of business and the public research sector in Australia. The 3 main initiatives carried out over recent years include: the Patent Analytics Hub, Source IP and the Intellectual Property Government Open Data project (IPGOD). These initiatives accomplish many things, for example the Hub assists Australian innovators by extracting value from patent databases in order to make the most of their IP by aiding understanding of their technology areas, finding collaborators and boosting the commercial returns from research.  Source IP is a digital marketplace that is aimed at making it easier for Australian businesses, including SMEs, to access public-sector innovation and technology. Finally, in recognition that analysis of IP rights requires good data, IPGOD is a database linking all IP rights to firm identifiers, including Australian Business Numbers (ABNs) and Australian Company Numbers (ACNs). These initiatives demonstrate the government’s commitment to innovation and IP Australia’s vision of delivering a world leading IP system.

The Report and these initiatives are well worth a more detailed review for interested parties.