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IP Report 2019

Welcome to the Australian IP Report 2019

photo of Minister Karen Andrews


As Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, I am pleased to introduce the 2019 edition of the Australian Intellectual Property (IP) Report.

IP is at the heart of the digital economy, which is enabled by technological progress. By highlighting recent trends in IP activity, this report therefore informs public discussion on innovation and entrepreneurship at large. The addition this year of a digital report with enhanced data visualisations is a welcome tool for promoting greater understanding of IP statistics.

The latest statistics reveal that applications for all IP rights continued to grow in 2018. Australian residents have demonstrated strong growth (around nine per cent) in applications for patents and design rights. Non-resident applications for trade marks grew particularly strongly by around 11 per cent, indicating Australia’s attractiveness to the global business community.

A well-functioning IP system fosters innovative activity and encourages the creation of new ideas. The OECD has identified weak IP rights as a factor hampering international co-operation in science, technology and innovation, but Australia’s IP rights are relatively strong and well regarded, providing a potential source of economic advantage. An efficient IP system based on optimal policy settings will enhance Australia’s international competitiveness and support economic growth.

IP Australia is raising awareness of IP rights and their value for businesses and the broader community. In that spirit, this year’s report highlights the contributions of female inventors. I am confident that the research and analysis produced by IP Australia, and showcased in this report, provides insights that will support decision-making over the coming years.


Hon Karen Andrews MP

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology

1 April 2019


Chapter 1: Introduction

In 2018, Australia retained its standout position among advanced economies of experiencing 26 years of continuous economic growth.1 The IP system plays a part in this, as innovation is a crucial driver of productivity and economic growth. IP rights, being a tool for incentivising the creation of new ideas, are part of the framework conditions that support innovation and entrepreneurship.

Investment in IP and applications for IP rights can be viewed as indicators of innovative and entrepreneurial activity in general. IP Australia administers four IP rights, each of which plays a distinct role. Patents (Chapter 2) trace the rate and direction of technological progress. Trade marks (Chapter 3 and Chapter 6) make visible our investment in intangible assets, these being ever more important to trade among advanced economies. The use of design rights (Chapter 4 and Chapter 7) underscores the role of aesthetic innovation across diverse industries. Innovation in agriculture, including the plant varieties protected by plant breeder’s rights (Chapter 5), underlies Australia’s leading position in global agricultural production.

In 2018, patent and trade mark applications grew by more than three per cent. Applications for design rights increased by just over one per cent from a record high level in 2017. The demand for plant breeder’s rights (PBRs) grew by 12 per cent to return to its 2016 level. As in recent years, most applications for patents, designs and PBRs originated overseas. Residents remain the leading applicants for trade marks, though growth in trade mark applications was entirely attributable to non-residents.

Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 of this report showcase research and analysis undertaken by IP Australia. In Chapter 6, we present the results of a study on ‘trade mark cluttering’, a situation that happens if a trade mark register becomes cluttered with out-of-use and overly broad trade marks. The analysis finds that Australia’s register is not cluttered; however, there is increasing evidence of applicant behaviour that could lead to cluttering in the future.

Chapter 7 provides a summary of a joint study between IP Australia and The University of Melbourne, which explored the use of design rights within Australia and how Australia compares to its international peers. This research shows that Australia’s design labour force is small, relative to Australia’s size as an industrial economy, although reasonably productive in generating design rights. The analysis also shows that Australia lags several of its peers both in the rate at which its design force is growing and in its rate of growth in design registrations.

This year, with the seventh edition of the Australian IP Report, we are publishing—for the first time—a fully digital report with interactive data visualisations. These allow readers to focus on specific aspects of trends in IP activity while presenting them in an appealing visual form.

By stimulating public discussion on IP through this report, we aim to provide a forum for engagement. In this spirit, we welcome your comments, suggestions and questions.




End notes

  1. Australian Trade and Investment Commission. 2017. Invest in Australia: Benchmark report. Canberra: ATIC, viewed January 2019.