Australia is an active IP jurisdiction, and patents are secured for a broad range of technologies and by patent applicants from a broad range of industry sectors. Interestingly, and due to the relatively small local manufacturing presence in Australia, about 90% of the patent applications filed in Australia are in the name of foreign entities. Admittedly, in some cases, those entities are the overseas parent companies of local subsidiaries. Even so, it is fair to state that Australia remains very much an importer of technology and associated IP.

When narrowing the above perspective to include only the top 10 patent applicants in Australia – assessed upon the number of patent applications filed in a given year – the patent landscape still spans across many industries and includes the diverse range of fields such as gaming technologies, ICT, chemical, pharmaceutical and healthcare.

In this article we look a little further into the detail, to view the top 10 patent applicants in Australia based on the number of patent filings from the calendar year 2012, and to track the number of patent filings of these applicants over a period of four years up until the end of 2015. The number of patent filings in a particular jurisdiction is commonly used as an indicator for the industries where there are higher levels of innovation and competition, and an indicator of the state of the economy.

Top 10 patent applicants for 2012

The top 10 patent applicants for 2012 are set out in Table 1. As foreshadowed above, this includes applicants from a diverse range of industries and market sectors.

Name Industry
Aristocrat Technologies Australia Gaming
Apple Inc. Computer hardware/Computer software/Consumer electronics/Digital distribution
General Electric Co Home Appliances/Financial services/Medical devices/Life Sciences/Pharmaceutical/Automotive/Software Development/Engineering
Covidien Medical equipment
BASF Chemical
Novartis Pharmaceutical/healthcare
Nestec Food manufacturing/processing
Samsung Electronics Co Consumer electronics/Telecoms equipment/Semiconductors/Home appliances
Halliburton Energy Services Oilfield services & equipment
Google Internet/Computer software

Table 1: Top 10 Patent Applicants in Australia in 2012                                                             Source: IP Australia records

In compiling the above table account was taken of the combined numbers of provisional patent applications, innovation patent applications and standard patent applications with a filing date in that particular calendar year, and any Australian national phase patent application with a national phase entry date in that same calenda year.

Of the top 10, one is an Australian-based company (Aristocrat Technologies Australia), four are US-based companies, four are European-based companies, and one is a Korean-based company. Moreover, a number of the listed overseas companies have fully owned subsidiaries in Australia which undertake development work in addition to marketing and distribution.

From 2012 to 2015

Having established the eclectic mix of parties making use of the patent system in Australia, we now turn to the trending of filing numbers in the names of those parties. Interestingly, over the period under review, being the calendar years 2012 to 2015, the occupants in the top 10 patent applicants in Australia have not changed much. Before looking at this further it is worth observing that over the period under review the applicants in the top 12 have remained exactly the same, although admittedly the order of appearance has varied between years. More particularly, while a number of the applicants in the top twelve have filed relatively consistent numbers of patent applications in each year over the four year period, other applicants have exhibited more volatility in the number of patent applications they have filed.

By way of illustration, Table 2 shows, for the parties listed in Table 1, the number of patent filings in Australia in 2012, then each subsequent year until 2015.

Name 2012 2013 2014 2015
Aristocrat Technologies Australia 274 133 85 147
Apple Inc. 245 246 177 191
General Electric Co 233 177 150 93
Covidien 213 285 299 143
BASF 207 200 182 165
Novartis 189 233 183 172
Nestec 178 222 149 151
Samsung Electronics Co 159 366 292 321
Halliburton Energy Services 150 226 358 590
Google 133 219 139 112

Table 2: Number of patent filings of top 10 Patent Applicants in Australia in 2012 from 2012 to 2015

To accommodate those more inclined to visual tools, the filing numbers in Table 2 are presented in Figure 1 in graphical form.

Click here to view figure.

Figure 1: Number of patent filings of top 10 Patent Applicants in Australia in 2012 from 2012 to 2015

Movement of top 10 patent applicants

The data obtained is limited to Australian patent applications filed under a specific entity only, and as such does not include, for example, patent applications which may have been filed under a subsidiary or related entity. In any case, the data provides a broad indication of patent filing trends between 2012 and 2015 for the top 10 patent applicants in Australia in 2012.

Looking at the patent filings in Australia for BASF and Novartis it can be seen that the number of patent filings have remained relatively consistent between 2012 and 2015. BASF and Novartis are in the chemical and pharmaceutical/healthcare industries, respectively. As these industries having relatively long research and development phases in comparison to industries such as the ICT industry, it may not be too surprising that number of filings have remained relatively consistent across a four year period. Perhaps an analysis of data of the number of patent filings for chemical and pharmaceutical/healthcare industries across a longer time period would illustrate different movements in terms of increases and decreases in patent filings and therefore provide a more accurate indication of growth or declines in innovation in these industry areas.

Patent filings in Australia for Aristocrat Technologies Australia and General Electric Co in 2015 almost halved from the respective number of patent filings in 2012. In contrast, patent filings in Australia for Samsung Electronics Co and Halliburton Energy Services have seen the most upward movement, with the number of filings in 2015 at least doubling the respective number of filings in 2012.

The most notable movement in Australian patent filings over the four year period is that of Halliburton Energy Services. The data indicates that Halliburton Energy Services, the top filer in 2015, filed more than twice as many patents as Aristocrat Technologies Australia, the top filer in 2012. While the oil and gas sector in Australia has advanced over the last few years from a large investment phase to a production phase, the data indicates that Halliburton Energy Services has continuously increased its investment in innovation in the Australian market. The rate of increase over the four year period far exceeds the growth seen in the industries occupied by the other top patent applicants.


The above data supports the proposition that the Australian economy remains relatively open to foreign incoming investment and provides a market in which many foreign companies actively participate and compete with local companies. The existence of well-established IP laws and experienced Courts adjudicating on those laws furthers the attractiveness of the market both to all right holders and those contesting or competing with those rights. We expect to see continued growth in the overall number of patent filings in Australia across a broad range of technologies particularly with the recent rapid increase in the number of new entrants to the market, particularly from China.

Interestingly, while there is evidently continued development in ICT technologies globally, growth in this area of technology is not really reflected in the number of patent filings in Australia with Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics Co and Google being the only ICT companies appearing in the top 10 list. In contrast, patent filings in the US are heavily dominated by the ICT industry. However, the increase in patent filings for Samsung Electronics Co over the part four years may suggest a change in future trends.