Last month I reported that, against the trend of 2020, September was a busy month for Australian patent filings, with standard applications up by 8.1% on the same month in 2019. (In fact, following more recent additions and corrections in IP Australia’s records, the increase is even higher, at 9.2%.) But, sadly, any optimism this might have generated was short-lived, with October filings down by 7.9% on last year. Numbers of new filings originating in Australia, the US, Japan, and Europe were all substantially lower than in October 2019, although applications from China once again bucked the trend. Filings from all other countries were comparable to 2019, down by just 0.7%.
Counted at the end of October, Chinese applicants have filed 1822 Australian standard patent applications during 2020, just 6% behind Australian applicants at 1937. This compares with 1410 applications filed by Chinese applicants at the same time in 2019. Most of these gains have come in the second half of the year, with monthly filings from China being substantially higher than during 2019 in every month since June. If this trend continues for the final two months of the year, Chinese residents will surpass Australians for the first time as the second largest users of the Australian patent system after the US.
Chinese applicants also continued to make ridiculously high use of the innovation patent system, reflecting the effect of subsidies back in China, rather than any inherent value of the innovation patents themselves. By the end of October, Chinese residents had filed 1719 innovation patent applications, compared with just 332 at the same point in 2019. Meanwhile, Australian residents filed 801 innovation patent applications, with a further 618 coming from the rest of the world combined. With just nine months remaining until its abolition, the innovation patent system is now looking very much like the laughing stock that it has long been regarded as by some critics.
For the ‘coronavirus-affected’ period from March to October, the number of standard patent applications filed in Australia is 2.4% below the same period last year while provisional filings are down by 3.0% overall. However, a relatively large number of provisional applications are filed by self-represented applicants, and the decline in professionally prepared and filed provisionals is slightly higher, at 4.4%.
While all of this means fewer standard and provisional filings for the patent attorney profession generally, the pain has not been shared equally. Indeed, some sectors of the market, and individual firms, have seen growth in their filings compared with 2019, while others have experienced more significant declines. Very broadly speaking, the best place to be, in terms of 2020 patent filings, is a medium-sized or large privately-held firm, although micro-practices and medium-sized firms within the listed groups have also collectively increased their share of standard patent filings during the pandemic.