31 December 2017

The Year 2017 in Statistics, and a Look Ahead to 2018

ChampagneThis is the 55th article to be published on the Patentology blog for 2017.  According to Google Analytics, 38,571 unique users have visited this year, generating 97,141 page views in the course of 71,687 visits.  About 62% of all visits came from Australia, 14% from the US, 4% from New Zealand, and just over 2.5% from each of the UK and India.  Germany, Canada, Singapore, Japan, and Russia rounded out the top 10 origins of visitors.

The profile of technologies used to access the site strongly suggests that most visitors read the blog while at work.  Two thirds of all visits were via a computer running the Windows operating system.  Of these, a significant majority (62%) are using Windows 7, with the next most ‘popular’ versions being Windows 10 (27%) and Windows 8.1 (9%).  Personally, I do almost all of my online reading these days on a tablet or smartphone, yet only 15% of visits to Patentology in the past year were from iOS (iPhone/iPad) or Android devices.  Indeed, over the past three years there has been no significant change in the proportion of visitors accessing the site using mobile devices.  This bucks a general trend of internet usage – mobile web access surpassed desktop for the first time in November 2016.

Chrome won the ‘browser wars’.  Almost exactly 50% of visitors in 2017 used Google’s browser, followed distantly by Internet Explorer (almost entirely IE 11) on 18%, Safari on 17.5%, and Firefox on 10%.  Approximately nobody is using any other browser any more (including Microsoft’s Edge).

‘Organic search’ (i.e. web searches using Google, Bing, or another recognised engine) brought 62% of all visits in 2017.  A further 17% were ‘direct’ traffic – returning visitors accessing the blog from a bookmark, and new visitors who perhaps received a link or the URL from someone.  My weekly email bulletins (you can sign up here) generated around 11% of visits.  The remainder came from a variety of sources, including social media, 43% of which was via Twitter and 29% via LinkedIn.

Top Content of 2017

After quitting full-time patent attorney practice late in 2016, I had time over the past year to dust off some of my old technical skills, and acquire some new ones.  Partly as a result of this, quite a number of articles in 2017 have been based on original analysis of Australian and US patent data sets. 

Another recurring theme has been the ongoing process of structural change in the Australian IP profession – or, more accurately, the trans-Tasman IP profession, following the establishment of a single regulatory regime for Australian and New Zealand patent attorneys, and the recent acquisition of New Zealand firm A J Park by the Australian ASX-listed holding company IPH Ltd

As a result, of the top 10 articles, by readership, in 2017, six include substantive patent data analysis, and three directly address the changing face of the Australian patent attorney profession (two articles combine both categories).  These 10 most-read articles of 2017 were, in reverse order:
  1. Justice Stephen Burley Pulls Excess Teeth from Australia’s Innovation Patent
  2. Technology Specialisations of Australia’s Patent Prosecution ‘Powerhouse’ Firms
  3. Users and Abusers of the Australian Innovation Patent System
  4. Vale Innovation Patent – Australian Government Responds to Productivity Commission IP Report
  5. How the Fate of Software and Business Method Patents has Turned on USPTO Directors and the Courts
  6. Australia’s Biotechnology ‘Hotspots’ – An Interactive Map
  7. What IP Australia Does Not Tell You: If You Want a Patent, You Should Hire a Patent Attorney!
  8. How IP Australia Has Been Quietly Curbing Abuse of the Innovation Patent System
  9. Publicly-Listed Firms Account for Half of the Australian Market for Patent Services
  10. Beaton Survey Reveals Listed Australian IP Firms’ Epic Failure to Communicate

What Lies Ahead in 2018?

The coming year promises to be another interesting – and potentially turbulent – one for the Australian patent system.  Public consultations have already taken place in relation to proposed changes to patent (and other IP) laws in response to the Productivity Commission’s (PC) review of Australia’s IP arrangements.  These changes include potential substantive amendments to the law of inventive step, while draft legislation has already been published in relation to other PC recommendations, including abolition of the innovation patent.  It is likely that some, if not all, of these legislative changes will be passed during 2018.

The Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Board (TTIPAB) – the body responsible for regulation of the patent attorney profession in Australia and New Zealand – has been working on a new Code of Conduct, which must come into effect no later than 23 February 2018.  This effort has been taking place in the context not only of Australian and New Zealand attorneys coming under a common disciplinary regime in 2017, but also during a period of unprecedented change and consolidation in the profession that has raised many new and unique issues and concerns.  (A number of these were, not coincidentally, the subject of the two most-read articles of the year, i.e. Publicly-Listed Firms Account for Half of the Australian Market for Patent Services and Beaton Survey Reveals Listed Australian IP Firms’ Epic Failure to Communicate.) 

The new Code will certainly impose additional obligations upon Australian and New Zealand attorneys as a direct result of these concerns, and may even prompt further changes in ownership and operating arrangements of Australian firms in order achieve greater efficiencies and/or to mitigate risks associated with compliance.  I would not, for example, be at all surprised to see one or more actual mergers in 2018 of firms within commonly-owned groups that are currently continuing to operate independently.

Patentable subject matter, and in particular the patent-eligibility of certain computer-implemented innovations, will also be back on the agenda in 2018, with two applicants having appealed rejections to the Federal Court of Australia.  The appeal by Rokt Pte Ltd has been scheduled for hearing over four days in July 2018, making it likely that a judgment will be issued before the end of the year.  Queensland-based applicant (and patent attorney) Todd Martin has had his appeal set down for mediation facilitated by a Registrar of the Federal Court on 8 February 2018 – although I find it difficult to see how he is going to find common ground with the Commissioner of Patents on the disputed subject-matter of his application.

Conclusion – Happy New Year!

I would like to thank all readers for your continued support of the blog in 2017 – particularly the email subscribers, regular visitors, and especially those who have taken the time to post comments, send the occasional email or speak to me at various events throughout the year.  If people were not reading, or providing any feedback, there would be no reason for me to keep researching and writing articles.

Best wishes to everyone for a happy, safe, and successful 2018!


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The Patentology Blog by Dr Mark A Summerfield is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.