28 January 2020

Interactive Maps I: Where Do New Australian Patent Applicants Come From?

Australia Map PinIn my recent articles looking at patent applicants, patent recipients, and attorney firm performance over calendar year 2019, I noted (from all three perspectives) the disappointing showing of Australian applicants.  That being said, there are, nonetheless, thousands of applications filed by Australian residents every year, which got me wondering – out of idle curiosity as much as any expectation that it would be especially enlightening – where do ‘new’ Australian patent applicants come from?  I mean this in the most literal sense: where are Australian companies and individuals, filing for the first time, located geographically?

Fortunately, IP Australia’s annual IP Government Open Data (IPGOD) release includes geographical information, in to the form of latitude and longitude coordinates, for Australian-resident applicants.  In particular, the most recent release, IPGOD 2019, includes location data for most Australian applicants going back over more than three decades, up until the end of 2018.  I thought it might be fun to turn some of this data into interactive maps.

I have generated two such maps.  In this article I will present the first, which shows the geographical distribution of new applicants that used the services of a patent attorney versus those that filed their own applications.  Unsurprisingly, the data shows a concentration of applicants in the major cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth.  However, a significant number of applicants is also located in regional Australia.

In a separate article, I present the second map, showing the distribution of new client acquisitions by ten leading Australian patent attorney firms.

Definitions and General Features of Maps

For the purposes of this exercise, I looked at new applicants filing over the three year period between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2018 (i.e. the most recent full three years available in the IPGOD 2019 data).  I defined a ‘new’ applicant as an individual or company that filed one or more applications during this period, but had not filed any earlier applications, going back to 1 January 1990.  For the most part, these would be ‘virgin’ users of the patent system, and where they engage the services of a patent attorney to assist with preparation and filing, they would also typically represent a new client acquisition.

The resulting interactive maps include a drop-down menu in the top left-hand corner that is used to select between data sets for display.  There are also the standard Google Maps zoom (bottom-right) and full-screen (top-right) controls.  I recommend switching to full-screen view to break out of the confines of the article column, and provide more space to explore!  The drop-down menu also allows you to clear the current data set, and to reset the map view (which, if data is displayed at the time, will automatically zoom to a view that encompasses all of the current data points).

Attorney-Filed vs Self-Filed

The map below plots the locations of all new Australian applicants, separated (via the drop-down menu) into those that engaged an attorney and those that self-filed.  Clicking on the pin located in central Australia pops up a summary of the national totals, i.e. number of new applicants, and the total number of applications collectively filed during the 2016-2018 three-year period.  Each of the circular data points represents applicants within (roughly) a 2 km radius, and clicking on any of these points pops up a corresponding summary.  The circles are colour-coded, from yellow (lowest) to red (highest), indicating the number of applications filed by applicants located within the corresponding area.  (Note that the actual numerical meaning of the colour-coding is scaled according to the range of values within the data set, and therefore may be different for each data set.)

I found it interesting to switch between the attorney-filed and self-filed data sets, and note that while (of course) the distribution of points is not identical, there does not appear to be any great difference in the tendency of new applicants to self-file depending upon their location.  I had wondered whether the decision to self-file might be influenced by the local (un)availability of patent attorney services, considering that Australia has fewer than 700 registered attorneys working in private practice, and the overwhelming majority of these are located in the major capital cities.  However, there is no obvious indication that this is the case – even in Tasmania which, according to the Register maintained by the Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Board (TTIPAB), currently has no resident patent attorneys.

And, yes, the ‘self-filer’ data point that appears to be floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is genuine – if you zoom in you will find that it represents a lone applicant on Lord Howe Island.

Conclusion – Please Explore!

I hope you find some interest in exploring this map.  If you see anything noteworthy, please feel free to contribute your thoughts in the comments below.


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