It is common to summarise patent filing numbers over calendar years – back in January I reported on various filing statistics for 2020, and IP Australia did likewise in April. For most Australian businesses, however – including patent attorney firms – the more important reporting period is the financial year ending on the 30th of June. It is therefore interesting to look at patent filing numbers over the 12 month period commencing at the beginning of July, overall and for individual firms. In this article I will report on filing performance in the 2021 financial year (‘FY21’), which ran from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, as compared with the previous (and, to some extent, earlier) financial year.
Surprisingly, despite the global pandemic, and a decline in filings over the 2020 calendar year, the number of Australian standard patent applications filed in FY21 grew by 3.6% over FY20, largely due to a very strong first six months of 2021. Innovation patent applications surged ridiculously, to more than three times their numbers in FY20, for reasons that have nothing to do with either the pandemic, or a genuine interest by most applicants in obtaining enforceable rights. Unfortunately for the health of the Australian innovation ecosystem (and the patent attorneys that support it), filings of new provisional applications declined by nearly 5% in FY21.
The leading firms for patent filings in FY21 were mostly the well-known names you would expect to see, although a couple of smaller firms have slipped into the top 20 on the strength of large numbers of innovation patent filings, primarily made on behalf of Chinese applicants. The benefit of the growth in standard applications has not been shared equally, with a couple of big name firms experiencing a decline in new filings, while others did much better than the overall 3.6% growth rate.
I have also looked at the numbers of some key prosecution events – namely new examination requests, responses to examination reports, and acceptances – over the past few financial years. These indicate that the overall prosecution workload increased slightly in FY21, ensuring that patent attorneys (and examiners) were kept busy with the examination of earlier-filed applications, despite the ongoing pandemic. Strong numbers of examination requests filed in FY21 suggest that this work will continue to flow into, and beyond, the current financial year.