28 January 2020

Interactive Maps II: Where do Leading Patent Attorney Firms Find New Clients?

Australia Map PinIn my previous blog post, I explained how preparing articles looking at patent applicants, patent recipients, and attorney firm performance over calendar year 2019 had got me thinking about where ‘new’ Australian patent applicants come from, in the literal sense of where they are located geographically?  I also noted that 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.

From this data, I have generated two interactive maps.  In the previous article I presented the first, showing the geographical distribution of new applicants that used the services of a patent attorney versus those that filed their own applications.

In this article, I present the second map, showing the distribution of new client acquisitions by ten leading Australian patent attorney firms.  The maps shows that, unsurprisingly, metropolitan applicants that engaged an attorney showed a distinct – though not universal – tendency to choose a firm with a local physical office.  Interestingly, comparing with the other map of self-filers versus those that engaged an attorney, an absence of local patent attorneys does not appear to be a major influence on whether applicants chose to self-service, rather than tracking down an attorney – the distributions of self-filers and those who engaged an attorney look very similar.  On the other hand, among leading firms it is clear that some do a better job than others of reaching out to acquire clients in regional areas.

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).

Client Acquisitions by Selected Firms

It is not feasible to plot locations of the clients of every patent attorney firm on a single map, so I decided to select a list of ten, based upon firms’ established record of providing services to Australian clients, as reflected in total filings during the decade (2006-2015) leading up to the three-year period represented on the map.  The resulting list of firms was Spruson & Ferguson, Griffith Hack, Davies Collison Cave, FB Rice, Phillips Ormonde Fitzpatrick, Wrays, Shelston IP, Watermark, FPA Patent Attorneys, and Madderns (and/or their relevant predecessors in title). 

The map below plots the locations of new Australian applicants, separated (via the drop-down menu) among those that engaged attorneys from the selected firms identified above.  On this map, given that the data sets are smaller, each of the circular data points has a higher precision, representing applicants within (roughly) a 200 m radius.  As before, clicking on any of these points pops up a corresponding summary, and the circles are colour-coded, from yellow (lowest) to red (highest), to indicate the number of applications filed by applicants located within the corresponding area.  Pins now represent the physical locations of firm offices.  (I have endeavoured, using contents of the Register of Attorneys and firm web-sites, to include only those locations that are presently staffed on a full-time basis – these locations may differ from those that existed during the 2016-2018 period.)  Clicking on any office pin pops up a summary of the national totals for the firm in question.

For the most part, new clients are acquired from in and around the national capitals, with all firms gaining the majority of new work from cities in which they have a local presence.  New work from regional areas appears to be sporadic, at best, with locations outside the capital cities contributing a few new applications here and there.  Nonetheless, Spruson & Ferguson – presumably largely via the former firms of Cullens and Fisher Adams Kelly Callinans – did a far better job than other firms of extending the reach of its Brisbane office into northern Queensland, while Davies Collison Cave looks to have outperformed its main competitors in outreach to regional Victoria, and Tasmania.

Conclusion – Please Explore!

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


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