In 2020, the number of standard patent applications filed in Australia fell by 1.8%, to 29,240 from 27,786 in 2019. Much of this decline can be attributed to domestic applicants, which filed around 10% fewer applications in 2020. On the other hand, Chinese applicants filed nearly 20% more applications in 2020 than in 2019, falling only 48 applications short of the number filed by Australian applicants. US residents remained the top users of the Australian standard patent system, being named on 13,037 applications, which was a 1.6% decline on 2019.
Among the leading origins for Australian patent filings, China, South Korea, the UK and Japan all increased their application numbers over 2019, while Canadian, Australian, French, and Swiss applicants filed substantially fewer applications. The leading applicant, for the second year running, was Chinese telecommunications device manufacturer OPPO, which increased its new filings by 39%, to 435, eclipsing second-placed LG Electronics with 236 applications. Rounding out the top three was Huawei, with 229 new applications in 2020. Huawei’s heavy investment in Australian patents is interesting, considering that the company is barred from supplying advanced equipment for use in Australian telecommunications networks due to ‘security concerns’. Perhaps it may yet expect to derive income from the Australian market in the form of licensing revenues from its standards-related and other patents.
The picture is very different for innovation patents – the second-tier rights that are now well into their final year of full availability before being phased out. Chinese applicants seem to have treated the impending abolition of the system as if it is a ‘going out of business’ sale, increasing filings by over 400% and becoming by far the largest users of innovation patents. Indian applicants seem also to have caught on, rather late in the piece, to the advantages of a system that enables a patent to be granted without the time and expense of substantive examination, with applications originating in India jumping from just eight in 2019 to 529 in 2020 (growth of over 6500%, if such a measure were meaningful off this small base). Some US applicants also seem to have jumped at the final opportunity to obtain innovation patents, nearly doubling their filings from 86 in 2019 to 159 in 2020.
As usual, provisional applications were filed almost exclusively by Australian applicants. The total number filed in 2020 was down by 2% on 2019. However, it is likely that the number of ‘quality’ provisional has fallen by more than this number would indicate, with applications prepared and filed with the assistance of external patent attorneys having dropped by nearly 5%, while self-filing increased by a similar proportion.