While not a direct measure of innovation, given that patent specifications generally assert that the invention defined within is novel and ‘somewhat’ inventive, patent application filings provide a metric for assessing the status and commercial relevance of the Australian patent system.  Accordingly, it is with some interest that we review the Australian Intellectual Property Report 2013 released from IP Australia.  

At first glance, it would appear that the Australian patent system is still appealing to both National and International entities. Total application filings have increased year on year following the global financial crisis affected 2008 with Standard direct patent filings driving the majority of growth.

In total 26,358 applications were filed with only 2635 of these being filed by Australian residents.  As usual, use of the Australian patent system was dominated by filings from international entities, with US residents filing the highest number of applications (11,376), followed by Japan (1,746) and Germany (1,594).

IP Australia’s analysis asserts that applications filed by Australians increased by 11% across 2011 – 2012 with 90% of filings originating from the Eastern States.  Of these Eastern states, all experienced double digit growth in patent filings for 2012.  One might speculate that at least the Eastern states of Australia are realising that innovation will be critical to remaining competitive on the International stage with new innovations being representative of increased patent application filings.  In any case, foreign jurisdictions appear to be more commercially relevant to Australian entities with Australian residents filing 58% more applications abroad than in Australia.

We do note with some interest the substantial increase in filings in 2011 – 2012 from Asian countries such as South Korea (increasing by 48%) and China (increasing by 34%).  These increases may indicate that Australia is emerging as a commercially important (or at least relevant) jurisdiction for entities in those countries.  Growth in patent application filings from US and Europe across 2011 – 2012 was relatively flat, probably reflecting the current economic climate in these countries.

All in all, it would appear that the state of play in Australia is promising.  However, following the ‘Raising the Bar’ amendments to the Australian Patents Act and the increasing amount of scrutiny being placed on the validity of both gene patents and Pharmaceutical extension of term provisions, it will be interesting to see if legislative uncertainty has an effect on the positive growth in patent application filings.  We will certainly be watching this space.