It will likely not come as a surprise, at least to those familiar with the Australian patent system, that Australian patent filings are dominated by overseas entities, a fact highlighted in the Australian Government’s recent publication “Australian Intellectual Property Report 2016” which noted that 92% of Australian patent filings in 2015 originated from overseas.

Supporting this fact, the below graphic illustrates the top twenty filers of Australian patent applications over the last 20 years. It can be seen that the filings are dominated by large overseas multinationals. In particular, Big Pharma, consumer products companies, large United States and European chemical manufacturers and early players in mobile telecommunications.

Top Australian patent filers; all countries of origin; 20 years to date - click for an expanded view.

(In the above graphic, and in those that follow, the size of a bubble represents the number of patent applications in the name of a particular entity. Within a single graphic this affords comparison between entities. However, the size of a bubble in one graphic cannot be compared to the size of a bubble in another graphic. Further, the relative position of a bubble in the graphic is not, for the purposes of this analysis, relevant.)

Restricting to the last three years of activity the graphic below illustrates a shift in the top players with high rates of patent filing attributable to the growth in mobile telecommunications and computer and internet related activities (Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd, Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Microsoft Corporation). Notably, one Australian based company now makes the top twenty list (Aristocrat Leisure Limited, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of gaming slot machines and no doubt enabled by Australia’s claim to fame as the number one gambling country in the world).

Top Australian patent filers; all countries of origin; 3 years to date - click for an expanded view.

Overseas based filers

Focusing on foreign based filers the following three graphics illustrates the top United States, Chinese and Japanese based filers over the last three years. It is noteworthy that for each of these countries the top twenty filers are all corporate entities.

Top Australian patent filers; United States origin; 3 years to date – click for an expanded view.

Top Australian patent filers; Chinese origin; 3 years to date – click for an expanded view.

Top Australian patent filers; Japanese origin; 3 years to date – click for an expanded view.

Australian based filers

Interestingly, focusing on Australian originating patent filings paints a very different picture. Almost half of the top twenty filers in the last three years are universities or publicly funded institutions. This is in sharp contrast to the nature of the entities filing patents from overseas and a clear testament to the relative weakness in the Australian corporate sector in terms of innovation and intellectual property uptake. It is telling that only one of Australia’s top fifty companies by revenue is in the top twenty of patent filers. We highlighted the issue of the low innovation output of Australia’s largest companies in a recent blog post.

Top Australian patent filers; Australian origin; 3 years to date – click for an expanded view.