25 July 2021

The Leading Firms for Australian Patent Filings in Financial Year 2021

Top of the chartIt is common to summarise patent filing numbers over calendar years – back in January I reported on various filing statistics for 2020, and IP Australia did likewise in April.  For most Australian businesses, however – including patent attorney firms – the more important reporting period is the financial year ending on the 30th of June.  It is therefore interesting to look at patent filing numbers over the 12 month period commencing at the beginning of July, overall and for individual firms.  In this article I will report on filing performance in the 2021 financial year (‘FY21’), which ran from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, as compared with the previous (and, to some extent, earlier) financial year.

Surprisingly, despite the global pandemic, and a decline in filings over the 2020 calendar year, the number of Australian standard patent applications filed in FY21 grew by 3.6% over FY20, largely due to a very strong first six months of 2021.  Innovation patent applications surged ridiculously, to more than three times their numbers in FY20, for reasons that have nothing to do with either the pandemic, or a genuine interest by most applicants in obtaining enforceable rights.  Unfortunately for the health of the Australian innovation ecosystem (and the patent attorneys that support it), filings of new provisional applications declined by nearly 5% in FY21.

The leading firms for patent filings in FY21 were mostly the well-known names you would expect to see, although a couple of smaller firms have slipped into the top 20 on the strength of large numbers of innovation patent filings, primarily made on behalf of Chinese applicants.  The benefit of the growth in standard applications has not been shared equally, with a couple of big name firms experiencing a decline in new filings, while others did much better than the overall 3.6% growth rate.

I have also looked at the numbers of some key prosecution events – namely new examination requests, responses to examination reports, and acceptances – over the past few financial years.  These indicate that the overall prosecution workload increased slightly in FY21, ensuring that patent attorneys (and examiners) were kept busy with the examination of earlier-filed applications, despite the ongoing pandemic.  Strong numbers of examination requests filed in FY21 suggest that this work will continue to flow into, and beyond, the current financial year.

21 July 2021

Could Australia Become the First Country to Recognise Non-Human Inventors?

Machine inventorOn 2 July 2021, a hearing took place at the Federal Court of Australia in Melbourne, before Justice Jonathan Beach, in the matter of Stephen Thaler v Commissioner of Patents.  This case concerns the question of whether a patent may be granted for an invention that was devised by a machine, rather than by a human inventor.  Back in February, I reported on the refusal by the Australian Patent Office to accept as valid an Australian patent application naming an ‘artificial intelligence’ going by the name DABUS (‘Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience’) as inventor.  And in March I reported that an application had been filed in the Federal Court for review of the Patent Office decision.

Regular readers will know my position on this issue – I do not consider it appropriate at this time (or, potentially, ever) to grant patents for inventions devised entirely by automated means, such that there is no human inventor.  I have written an article targeted to a more general audience, which has been published by InnovationAus, providing an overview of the Australian case, and broadly discussing my concerns.  Here I will be going into more detail of the arguments presented at the recent hearing, and why I think it would be very unfortunate if Justice Beach were to decide that this is a suitable case for judicial development of the law to embrace machine inventors, as he is being encouraged to do by Thaler.

I was able to attend the hearing virtually, since it was being held via web conference.  Thaler’s team, led by experienced and highly-regarded barrister David Shavin QC, appeared in person in the Melbourne courtroom with Justice Beach, while the Commissioner of Patents was represented by Hamish Bevan, appearing via video from Sydney (subject to restrictions, due to an ongoing COVID outbreak).  Although I disagree with the proposition, I thought that Mr Shavin presented a persuasive argument that the relevant provisions of the Australian Patents Act 1990 can, and should, be interpreted to encompass non-human inventors, and that Mr Bevan perhaps did not do enough to counter this argument.  I formed the impression that Justice Beach just might be minded to ‘develop’ the Australian law to permit patent applications having no human inventor, in part because he was not presented with any particularly good reasons not to do so.

09 July 2021

Who Are Australia’s Leading Global Patent Applicants?

Globe showing AustraliaThis is a guest contribution from Mike Lloyd of Patent-Insights.  Mike has previously contributed articles on the impact, from an Australian perspective, of COVID-19 on international patent, trade mark, and registered designs filings, and on what patent data can tell us about the Australian government’s plan for local manufacturing?  Further details about the author can be found at the end of the article.

There is an increasing realisation that a successful economy is also a smart economy, and a smart economy is strengthened by having companies and organisations innovating and commercialising their inventions.

Luckily Australia is full of companies and organisations doing exactly this.  But who are these companies, and in what areas are they innovating in?

To answer this question with the most recent yet reliable data, I have looked at patent global publication data for Australian companies filed in the 12 months prior to 31 March 2021.  I have chosen this period as it is the latest quarter for which reliable data is available. By coincidence this is also the 12 month period after COVID-19 made its impact known, but maybe it is too soon to fully understand the effect of COVID in this area.

Copyright © 2014
Creative Commons License
The Patentology Blog by Dr Mark A Summerfield is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.