Intellectual Property (IP) Australia published their 2020 edition of the Australian IP Report (the IP Report) on 24 April 2020. The IP Report, which can be accessed here, provides a current overview of the IP sector in Australia and the latest data on the IP rights (IPR) administered by IP Australia.

Reports such as the IP Report are essential in providing evidence of the important role of Australia’s IP system and its impact on the economy. As such, the trends and highlights identified in the IP Report are critical in determining the future of Australia’s productivity growth. In this article, we examine the key data in relation to patents, trade marks and designs published in the IP Report, and discuss the consequences that data implies.

Overall, the number of patents, trade marks and designs that were filed, granted and registered decreased in 2019 compared to 2018. Non-residents filed the most patent and design applications, whilst Australian residents filed the most trade mark applications last year. The top technology, trade mark and product classes in which patent, trade mark and design applications were filed in 2019 were medical technology, technological and electrical apparatus and means of transport or hoisting, respectively. For a more in-depth view of the statistics, please see our infographics and statistics segment below.

Digital Economy

The theme for the eighth edition of the IP Report is the ‘digital economy.’ The digital economy encompasses all goods, services and activities in relation to information and communication technologies (ICT), such as AI, block-chain, big data analytics and the internet of things. Research in this area, in particular in the IP sector, is developing rapidly as digital technologies are anticipated to grow exponentially in the coming decades, bringing with them extensive potential commercial value.

Australia’s IPR In The Digital Economy

IPR go hand in hand with digital technologies. The historic trends in ICT-related IPR in Australia demonstrates how our digital economy has been impacted by significant international economic events.

The number of Australian ICT-related patent and trade mark applications decreased considerably in the early 2000s, which can be attributed to the dot-com crash. Although the numbers recovered to a certain extent in the following years, another sharp fall occurred in 2009 reflecting the impact of the Global Financial Crisis. There has since been a steady growth in the number of ICT-related patent and trade mark applications, which corresponds to the rise in private investment in consumer technologies. Conversely, the number of ICT-related design applications has increased substantially in the last two decades, reflecting an increase in design innovation activity in Australia’s digital economy.

These ICT-related IPR trends show how closely the Australian industry is associated with the international digital economy, and accordingly, how we are becoming more digitalised in the way we work, interact, produce, consume and innovate.

IP Australia’s Analysis

IP Australia conducted an analysis of the filings in ICT-related patents, trade marks and designs by countries of origin over the past decade in order to trace the development of Australia’s digital economy. The key findings are listed below.


Internationally, Australia is ranked in the middle for its ICT-intensity in IP.

In an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 2017 Working Paper, Australia was ranked 16th out of 35 leading countries for the ICT-intensity of its residents’ patent filings at the world’s five largest patent offices (USPTO, EPO, JPO, KIPO and CNIPA) between 2013 and 2016.

In an OECD 2019 Report, Australia was ranked 13th out of 30 countries for its ICT-related trade mark portfolio and 15th out of 22 countries for its design portfolio at three large IP offices (EUIPO, JPO and USPTO) between 2014 to 2017.


In Australia, the United States filed the greatest number of ICT-related patents in the last decade, with 3,595 applications during 2015 to 2018.

The Republic of Korea has the highest intensity in ICT-related patents, with 22% during 2015 to 2018, making it the global leader in ICT-related patenting in Australia.

China experienced the highest increase in ICT-related patent applications in the last decade by a factor of nine from 61 to 581 applications.

Australian residents filed 527 ICT-related patent applications in 2015 to 2018, the same number filed in 2005 to 2008. With an ICT-intensity of 4%, Australia ranked 17th out of the 52 countries that filed ICT-related patents in Australia, suggesting that ICT-related patents is not a strength of the Australian industry.

Trade Marks

Australia ranks number one in terms of the greatest number of ICT-related trade marks filed in Australia from 2015 to 2018, with 38,774 applications. However, Australia’s ICT-intensity is only at 20%, which ranks it 25th out of 114 countries that filed ICT-related trade marks in Australia from 2015 to 2018. This is not only lower than the larger economies, including Europe and Asia, but also the smaller economies, such as New Zealand.

The US ranks second with 11,267 applications.

China’s ICT-related patent applications increased the most in the last decade by a factor of 8 from 421 to 3,838 applications.


The United States ranked first for the greatest number of ICT-related design right applications in Australia from 2015 to 2018, with 1,239 filings.

Australia ranks second with 299 applications.

China takes the title of the country with the greatest increase in ICT-related designs, growing from 2 to 200 applications in the last decade.

Hong Kong showed the strongest growth in ICT-intensity in Australia in the last decade from 3% to 15%.

Significance of Data

Based on the evidence above, Australia’s IP performance in the digital economy is middling, both domestically and internationally. Given the importance of ICT and its effect on boosting productivity growth and transforming societies, IP Australia advocates for a greater focus on the digital economy, which is integral to Australia’s future.

The Link Between IPR, Business Profitability and Market Competition

The IP Report includes a summary of IP Australia’s first longitudinal research study that critically examined micro-data concerning the empirical relationship between IP activity, business profitability and market competition in the Australian economy. A number of insightful findings in the study are discussed below.

  • The number of Australian businesses filing for IPRs has grown significantly in the last 15 years, which is indicative of increased IP activity in Australia. However, the number of businesses that are using IPRs has remained relatively the same.
  • Businesses that own IPRs are larger, older and more profitable than those without IPRs, with businesses that own more than one type of IPR tending to also be larger, older and more profitable than businesses with a single IPR.
  • Businesses that own IPRs are concentrated in the manufacturing and wholesale trade industries.
  • Australia’s IP system serves its purpose in incentivising innovation and not impacting on market concentration or competition.

Importantly, it was found that Australian businesses that own any of the three types of IPRs, especially those with multiple types, are likely to perform better in terms of profitability than businesses that do not own any IPRs. This indicates that successful commercialisation and design of technological inventions are required to render the inventions financially viable.

However, it was also found that the quantity of IPRs that a business owns is not a decisive factor in positively impacting on profitability. The potential implication of this is that businesses should not only focus on increasing the number of IPRs they own, but also ensure the quality of their IPRs and the underlying innovations are sound and that the business is competently and efficiently exploiting them.


Standard Patent Applications and Grants

In 2019, a total of 29,758 applications for standard patents were filed, which is a decrease of 0.7% from 2018

Number of PCT applications did not change in 2019 from 2018, whilst direct applications to IP Australia fell by 2.3%

In 2019, 17,010 standard patents were granted in Australia, which is a decrease of less than 0.3% from 2018

Following the enactment of legislation to phase out innovation patents, innovation patent applications decreased by 24% in 2019

Who are the key players?

In 2019, Australian resident patent applications fell by 4.3% compared to 2018 from 2,756 to 2,637 applications. Out of those, 829 patents were granted, which is a decrease from 905 grants in 2018.

In 2019, non-residents filed the majority of patent applications in Australia, with 27,121 applications or 91% of the total applications. Out of those, 95% of the patents were granted.

The top five countries of origin for standard patent applications in 2019 were:
USA (13,125)
Australia (2,637)
China (1,832)
Japan (1,573)
Germany (1,311)

Technology Classes

The top five technology classes in which standard patent applications were filed in 2019 in Australia were:
Medical technology (3,665)
Pharmaceuticals (2,695)
Biotechnology (2,655)
Organic fine chemistry (1,822)
Civil engineering (1,690)

Overseas filings

The latest data from 2018 shows that Australians increased the number of patents filed overseas by 3%

The US remains the primary destination country for Australian patent applications, receiving 40% of all Australians’ international filings

The EPO had the highest growth in Australian patent applications, with 15% year-to-year

Trade Marks

Trade Mark Applications and Registrations

In 2019, 75,622 trade mark applications were filed in Australia, a 5% decrease from 2018

In 2019, 58,641 trade mark were registered in Australia, a 2% decrease from 2018

Who are the key players?

In 2019, Australian residents filed 44,176 trade mark applications or 58% of total applications, a decrease of 4% from 2018

In 2019, non-residents filed 31,446 trade mark applications or 42% of total applications, a decrease of 6% from 2018. The split between resident to non-resident has narrowed over the past two decades, as non-residents’ share of applications tends to grow annually.

The top five countries of origin for trade mark applications in 2019 were:
Australia (44,176)
US (9,153)
China (4,998)
UK (2,332)
Germany (1,904)

Trade Mark Classes

In 2019, a total of 142,543 classes were nominated in the trade mark applications filed in Australia, with an average of 1.88 classes per application.

The top five trade mark classes in which trade mark applications were filed in 2019 in Australia were:
Class 9: Technological and electrical apparatus
Class 35: Advertising
Class 41: Education, training and entertainment
Class 42: Scientific and technological services
Class 25: Clothing, footwear and headgear


Design Right Applications and Registrations

In 2019, 7,476 design applications were filed in Australia, a 4.4% decrease from 2018

In 2019, 6,977 design rights were registered in Australia, a 5.3% decrease from 2018

In 2019, 999 designs were certified in Australia

Who are the key players?

In 2019, Australian residents filed 2,675 design applications, a 13.6% decrease from 2018, as the share of applications filed by residents has decreased over the past decade

In 2019, non-residents filed 4,801 design applications, a 1.7% decrease from 2018, although the share of applications filed by non-residents has increased over the past decade

The top three non-resident countries of origin for design applications in 2019 were:
US (27.9%)
China (4.8%)
Germany (3.8%)

Product classes

The top Locarno classes in which design applications were filed in 2019 were:

Class 12: Means of transport or hoisting, which encompasses all land, sea, air and space vehicles including their component parts and accessories

Class 9: Packages and containers for the transport or handling of goods