Change to the global economy has accelerated. The disruption caused by COVID-19 – to daily life, travel, business and health – goes beyond what can be captured in statistics, in gross domestic product (GDP), employment and trade. The crisis brought forward challenges, to adapt the way we live and work.

Intellectual property (IP) rights facilitate creativity, innovation and the diffusion of ideas. The Australian IP Report documents the latest developments in IP. Patents (Chapter 2) protect technological innovations, the outcomes of scientific and technical progress. Trade marks (Chapter 3) protect signs that indicate the origin of goods and services. Design rights (Chapter 4) protect new and distinctive visual forms of products. Plant breeder’s rights (PBRs) (Chapter 5) encourage investment in new varieties of plants. Copyright (Chapter 6) protects the expression of ideas founded in creative effort.

IP data provides an important lens across the state of the economy and how it is changing. In 2021, record numbers of patents, trade marks and designs were filed in Australia (See Table I1). Patent applications increased 11% on 2020, with filings from Australian residents up 25%. Trade mark applications grew 9%. Trade mark registrations rose 10%, driven by a 15% increase in resident filings. Design applications rose 13%, the steepest year-on-year growth this decade. Design certifications were up 38%. Applications for PBRs fell 6%, likely reflecting the continued impacts of drought, Australia’s devastating bushfires in 2019–20, COVID-19 lockdowns and border closures.

Table I1. 2021 IP statistics at a glance

Australia applicants Overseas applicants Total
Number Share Growth Number Share Growth Number Growth
Patent Filed 2,996 9% +25% 29,401 91% +9% 32,397 +11%
Granted 1,092 6% +13% 16,063 94% -4% 17,155 -3%
Trade marks Filed 53,339 60% +3% 35,386 40% +18% 88,725 +9%
Registered 40,307 57% +15% 30,300 43% +4% 70,607 +10%
Designs Filed 2,595 32% 0% 5,516 68% +21% 8,110 +13%
Certified 477 35% +36% 900 65% +39% 1,377 +38%
Plant breeder’s rights Filed 124 42% -9% 173 58% -1% 297 -6%
Registered 50 43% -52% 66 57% -38% 116 -45%

Companies file trade marks to announce new offerings, provided demand for different and higher quality products.1 As a result, trade mark filings are highly responsive to changes in household disposable income.2 In 2021, gross disposable income reached its highest level on record, boosted by COVID-19 lockdowns, remote work arrangements, reduced transport costs and government assistance.3 Australians have invested to upgrade their living environments and create comfortable workspaces at home. In 2021, the strongest growth in trade mark applications (+28%) was for household and kitchenware products (Chapter 3). The strongest growth in design applications was for lighting apparatus (+39%), as Australia’s renovation boom drove lighting industry revenues to their highest level since 2008 (Chapter 4).4

The pandemic has fundamentally altered Australia’s social and work environment. People have been spending more time at home, leading them to consume more online content, for example via online subscription services (Chapter 6). As the global economy has moved to a virtual model, organisations have been forced to redesign and digitise their operations. In 2021, patent applications for audiovisual technologies grew 85% and those for computer technologies grew 27% (Chapter 2). Applications grew 26% for trade marks over telecommunications services, such as virtual conferencing, video-on-demand and data sharing platforms.

For many established businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs, the ready availability of computing power and data is reshaping competition and the innovation process. Artificial intelligence (AI) is enabling new methods of inventing and could drive productivity gains across sectors. This year, we present analysis by IP Australia’s Patent Analytics Hub, which gauges the uptake of key AI technologies in Australia and globally (Chapter 2).

This year’s report highlights reforms underway to broaden access to the IP system and ensure it meets the needs of innovators from diverse backgrounds. Chapter 7 summarises research by IP Australia which shows that, after filing for IP rights, Australian SMEs are more likely to achieve high growth and tend to employ more people than their peers with no recent filings. In 2021, SME patent filings grew 27% from 2020, and the SME share of patent applicants has reached a decadal high, reversing a downward trend in recent years. The IP statistics in this report are derived from IP Australia’s publicly available data product, IPGOD5. Developed by IP Australia’s Centre of Data Excellence, IPGOD consolidates over 100 years of application data at the applicant level, allowing for analysis of their stocks and flows of IP rights.

Celebrating the 10th year of the Australian IP Report, the 2022 edition presents a rich account of IP activity in Australia to inform engagement between government, industry, academia and our wider community. The report profiles some of the many ways that IP data can be used for insight. We welcome your ideas, comments and feedback.


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Endnotes

  1. Castaldi C, J Block & MJ Flikkema (2020), ‘Editorial: why and when do firms trademark? Bridging perspectives from industrial organisation, innovation and entrepreneurship’. Industry and Innovation, 27: 1–2, 1–10.

  2. An Australian study estimated that a 10% increase in household income is associated with a 20% rise in trade mark filings by local companies. Jensen PH & E Webster (2004), ‘Patterns of trademarking activity in Australia’. Australian Journal of Intellectual Property, Melbourne Institute Working Paper 2(4).

  3. ABS (2021), Australian National Accounts: National income, expenditure and product, September 2021, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Commonwealth of Australia.

  4. IbisWorld (2021), ‘Australia industry (ANZSIC) report G4229: Electrical and lighting stores in Australia’. IbisWorld.

  5. In its latest version, improvements have been made to IPGOD which has resulted in modifications to the time series data that was published in previous IP reports.