26 June 2019

IP Australia has released two economic research papers which provide new evidence for how Australia’s intellectual property (IP) systems are used. The first study explores the extent to which Australia’s trade mark register is cluttered with out-of-use or overly broad trade marks. The second study reveals which Australian industries make intensive use of registered design rights, and how Australia’s design economy compares to those of our international peers. The studies were conducted by researchers from the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) at IP Australia, to inform the agency’s ongoing reform of Australia’s IP system. Summary findings of the papers are featured as chapters 6 and 7 in the Australian Intellectual Property Report 2019.

In national economies around the world, a fundamental shift is occurring in how economic value is derived. In 2018, over half the value created in the global economy (over USD$50 trillion) took the form of intangible assets, such as trade marks and designs, rather than tangible assets.[1] As Australia seeks to continue its transition to a knowledge-based economy, design and branding activities represent major potential sources of economic value. Applications for trade marks and design rights submitted worldwide have been increasing steadily. However, relatively little is known about the use of these rights in Australia.

A potential barrier to registering a trade mark is when the trade mark register is “cluttered”, containing many out-of-use or overly broad trade marks. Such clutter increases the costs of searching the register and can disadvantage business entrants. In 2017, the Australian Government asked IP Australia to ascertain if cluttering is a problem in its trade mark register. The OCE developed a new and comprehensive set of indicators to help answer this question. The OCE found that cluttering is not a significant problem in Australia’s trade mark register, compared for example to that of the United States; though there is evidence of applicant behaviour in Australia that could produce greater clutter in the future.

The second research paper that IP Australia is releasing examined how productively Australian industries register design rights, and how Australia compares in this regard to our international peers. The paper is the culmination of a six-month study on design innovation and design rights by the OCE, in collaboration with researchers from the Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia (IPRIA) at The University of Melbourne. The OCE-IPRIA study suggests that Australia’s design workforce is productive but small, given Australia’s size as an industrial economy. What’s more, Australia is lagging some of its major trading partners both in the rate at which its design force is growing and in its rate of growth in design registrations. These differences are partly attributable to the sectoral specialisation of Australia’s design industry.

The papers are now available on the IP Australia website at To know more about IP data and research, please contact us via


[1] Brand Finance. October 2018. Global Intangible Finance Tracker (GIFTTM). Brand Finance. <>, retrieved 19th June 2019.