I had just finished writing, yesterday, about the latest annual Australian IP Report, and the continuing decline in patent filings in Australia, when I decided to take a look at the numbers for March 2021. To my immense surprise, March was a boom month for Australian patent applications! The total number of filings, across all application types (provisional, standard, and innovation patent applications) for the month was 3,906. To find a month in which more applications were filed in Australia it is necessary to go back eight years, to April 2013, when 7,062 applications were filed. And that only happened because of the large number of applicants bringing filings forward by up to 18 months in anticipation of the Raising the Bar law reforms, which raised the threshold for the grant of a valid patent and commenced on 15 April 2014. The only other month that comes close is September 2015, when 3,827 applications were filed.
Of course, part of the reason for the high filing numbers in March is the current surge in innovation patent filings, which are presently running at about four times their ‘natural’ level (based on historical behaviour). In large part, this is driven by Chinese applicants collecting granted patents in order to claim government subsidies, but also by other users in anticipation of the impending phase-out of the innovation patent system from 26 August 2021.
But innovation patents are not the whole story. As data presented below demonstrates, there were more standard applications filed in March 2021 than in any month since September 2015. Even in 2018 – which was a peak year for standard applications – there was no individual month in which more applications were filed.
Nor can the boom month be attributed to Chinese applicants – or any other particular country of origin. Applicants from seven out of the top 10 countries of origin filed more applications in March 2021 than during the same period last year.
So what is going on here? I have no idea! This could be a one-off. It could be some sort of ‘bounce-back’ from the COVID-19 pandemic (which is, let us not forget, far from over globally). Or maybe there is something else going on here. Time – and perhaps a more detailed analysis – will hopefully tell.