A review of patent filing statistics for the petroleum sector (Thomson Reuters: 2012 State of Innovation Report) suggests many Australian resources companies are lagging behind their international counterparts when it comes to formally protecting their innovations. With the increasing realisation that IP assets can represent a significant proportion of the capital value of a company, this lack of protection can lead to companies being exposed to considerable risk and not realising commercial opportunities which may exist.

These statistics are all the more concerning when one considers the increased level of investment that Australian entities are directing towards the protection of their IP assets. According to a recent IBISWorld (Becoming a Smarter Country) report, Australia is investing a lot more of its total capital expenditure in IP (11.3% in 2012) illustrating that IP has become a serious business consideration over recent decades. Despite this trend, it is evident that some industry sectors are not as active as they could be in protecting and extracting value from these important intangible assets.

Success in the oil and gas industry is typically measured in terms of how efficiently and productively natural resources can be extracted, processed, stored and transported, and so it is understandable that the focus within this industry is around these core issues. Together with a diminished appreciation around what may constitute important IP and the value of IP inherent in different solutions and technologies, it is not surprising that IP often takes a lower priority in the scheme of things. A telling statistic however is that IBISWorld estimates IP as some 5.4% of the nation’s assets (totalling over $11 trillion in 2012/13) and within reach of overtaking the value of natural resources (7.7% of the total) in the near future. These statistics would suggest that business leaders need to be more cognisant of the value in their important IP assets and responsible for ensuring that these assets are properly managed and protected in the same way that other important business assets are managed.