As I reported back in January, there were some indications of weakening patent filings by Australian applicants in 2020. Domestic applicants filed 10% fewer Australian standard applications than in 2019. And while provisional filings overall fell by only 2%, those prepared with professional assistance – which involve greater expense, but are also far more likely to provide a sound basis for valuable future patent rights – fell by nearly 5%. While perhaps not the sole factor, it is logical to assume that the business impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was somewhat influential in this decline. Of course, Australian application numbers are not the only indicator of filing activity. Each year, Australian residents file over 1,500 international applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), representing potential future filings not only in Australia, but also in any of the other 152 (as at the time of writing) contracting states. So it is also interesting to know whether there was a corresponding decline in PCT filings by Australian residents in 2020.
The short answer is, possibly, but not as large as the decline in standard application filings. While it is almost certain that some PCT applications filed in 2020 have yet to be published, and are therefore not visible, the worst-case decline in international filings by Australian residents is around 6%. However, once all applications are published and available to be counted, there may be closer to 2% fewer PCT applications filed by Australians in 2020 as compared with 2019. This would be consistent with a similar decline in the previous year, and with the recent trend in provisional filings, which predate the pandemic.
Furthermore, the pattern of PCT filings across 2020 was much the same as in previous years, with no indication of applicant behaviour being influenced by the progress of the pandemic.