Most of the developed world has been in the grip of the medical, social, and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic since around March this year. I published my first monthly review of the impact on patent filings in early April, at which time it was really far too soon to discern any trends. But with data now available for the month of August it is becoming clear that – a surge in innovation patent applications by Chinese applicants aside – 2020 is likely to be a low year for patent filings in Australia. I reported last month that the number of standard patent applications filed in July had been virtually identical to the same month in 2019, following on from a similar result in June. However, August has marked a return to the negative trends of April and May.
Overall, for the six months from the beginning of March to the end of August, the number of standard patent applications filed is down by just over 5% compared to the same period in 2019. Hardest hit are new ‘original’ filings, i.e. applications filed directly in Australia that are not derived from an existing international application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) or divided from an existing Australian standard patent application. PCT national phase entries are down by around 2%, while divisional applications have declined by just under 3%. However, new direct national filings between March and August fell by 28% compared with the same period last year, following two years of growth in this category of applications.
The number of provisional applications filed in Australia between March and August is also down, by 1.5% over 2019. While this may not seem like much, patent attorneys are bearing the brunt of this decline – attorney-assisted filings fell by almost 4%, while the number of applications filed by applicants not represented by an attorney actually increased.
Chinese applicants continued to drive growth in innovation patent applications in August, with filings up by an astonishing 230% compared with 2019. Over the period from March to August, innovation patent filings increased by nearly 130%.
Meanwhile, New Zealand continues to shrug its shoulders in the face of COVID-19. Despite an overall decline in filings in August, PCT national phase entries have actually increased compared with 2019 during the six months since the start of March. And while direct filings were down, this may simply continue a longer-term trend that seems to have been occurring anyway.