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.

How I Searched for Patents

To answer this question, I ran a query in the Patseer patent database for worldwide patent applications by Australian applicants, published during the 12 months between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.  This returned 21,823 patent publications in total – where these publications included both patent applications and granted patents.  I analysed these patents using data analysis tools available in Patseer, after removing data for provisional, design and plant patents from the results.  I have also removed the data for Australian innovation patents as very few leading Australian patent filers file innovation patents.

For contrast, I compared this data to the 12 month period that finished on 31 March 2020.

Something to be aware of is the difference between patent publications and patent families.  A patent family can have a number of different publications, for example in Australia, US and Europe.  I have focused on individual publications rather than patent families as I believe that these are a better indicator of commercial intent.

So what did we learn?

Who Were the Leading Applicants?

The leading applicants can be split between companies and public sector bodies.  Since these different classes of applicants might have different drivers, I will provide different lists of the top ten applicants for these different classes.

The leading corporate applicants are shown in Figure 1 below.  Aristocrat, Resmed, and Cochlear headed the list, and with growth rates of 10%, 34% and 43% respectively compared to the previous 12 month period.  However the highest growth rate was restaurant and events company Grand Performance Online, which had a 308% growth rate – these patent applications were filed for reservation and event management software.  Overall these top 10 companies had a growth rate of 19%.

Figure 1 - Leading corporate applicants

Many of the leading applicants should be well known to most readers.  As for the rest, Chep makes logistics products, Schneider Electric patent applications are filed by the Australian subsidiary of a French company making electrical and automation equipment, while Nufarm makes agricultural chemicals.

Figure 2 shows that CSIRO was the leading non-corporate applicant (and also the leading applicant in Australia), ahead of the University of Melbourne, and then Monash University.  The changes from the previous 12 month period were declines of 10.3%, 3.8%, and growth of 12.7% respectively.  The rest of the leading non-corporate applicants were mainly leading Australian universities.

Figure 2 - Leading non-corporate applicants

Overall, for these top ten non-corporate applicants there was a 10.5% reduction in patent publications compared to the previous 12 month period – a noticeable contrast compared to the top 10 corporate applicants.  Across all patent applicants there was an overall reduction of 3.3%.

Who Were the Leading Inventors?

I also looked at the leading inventors (and their employers), as shown in Table 3 below.   This list is headed by Peter Petroulas, who is commercialising these patents via his company Resbutler.

Figure 3 - Leading inventors

Most of these inventors work for companies already discussed, but some companies need further discussion.  Canberra based EpiAxis Therapeutics is developing cancer treatments.  Perth based Fastbrick is developing a robotic bricklayer. Perth-Based Edward Khoury is the founder of Form Designs, which provides industrial design services for a number of different clients.

Where Were These Applications Filed?

Not surprisingly Australia was the leading jurisdiction for these patent publications, as shown in Figure 4.  Australia was followed by the US, with international (PCT) applications in 3rd position.  While a PCT application is not, itself, an application for a patent in any particular country, it is indicative of the applicant’s likely intention to file in multiple jurisdictions in the year following publication.

Figure 4 - Leading countries

The relative numbers of publications for the top five countries showed a range of trends – up in Australia by 10.3%, the US by 7.0% and PCT applications by 0.8%, while European patent applications were down by 13.4%.  There were greater relative changes further down in the table, but these changes are calculated on smaller bases.

What Were the Most Popular Industry Classes?

Figure 5 shows the top industries that these patents were filed in, according to the NACE Industry Classes [PDF, 473kB].  Basic Pharmaceutical Products was the most popular class – and, surprisingly perhaps, fell by 10.9% compared the previous 12 month period.  CSIRO was the leading applicant in this class.  Second in this list was Medical and Dental Instruments, which grew by 0.9%.

Figure 5 - Leading industry classes

The rest of the NACE showed a range of changes, with the biggest growth being in Other Special Purpose Machinery, led by gaming machine company Aristocrat.  Perhaps the most surprising class to be in the top ten was ‘motor vehicles’, but this included parts and accessories, including accessories for the burgeoning 4WD market.  As a matter of interest, the leading applicant for this industry was Gelong based Carbon Revolution, which makes premium carbon wheels for a range of global vehicles.  Australia may have stopped making domestic cars, but Australia remains a strong automotive innovator.

Summary  What Did We Learn?

  1. Australia’s top three corporate patent filers, namely Aristocrat, Resmed and Cochlear, all increased their patent publications in the year to March 2021 by between 10% and 43%, compared with the previous year.  Overall, the top 10 corporate filers increased their patent publications by 19%.
  2. Non-corporate filers in most cases decreased their patent publications, although Monash University increased its publications by 12.3%.  Overall, the top 10 non-corporate applicants reduced their patent publications by 10.5%, somewhat greater than the 3.3% reduction for all applicants.
  3. The leading inventor, at least in terms of patent publications, was restaurateur Peter Petroulas who has founded the company Resbutler to commercialise these patents.
  4. The leading sources of patent publications by Australian applicants were Australia, the US and the international (PCT) system, with growth rates of 10.3%, 7.0% and 0.8% respectively.
  5. Basic Pharmaceutical Products was the leading industry class, with CSIRO the leading applicant in this class – and this class fell by 10.9%.  Second in this list was Medical and Dental Instruments, which fell by 0.9%.  The fastest growing class with Other Special Purpose Machinery, which grew at 8% – and was led by Aristocrat.

About the Author

Mike LloydMike Lloyd is an experienced IP analyst and IP manager. He analyses IP data from a variety of sources to help patent owners, innovators, startups and patent attorneys to understand more about their IP, and the IP of competing companies and products.  Mike has over 15 years of experience in this field, with the majority of the time working for a leading Australian IP firm, and with global multinationals as clients.

Mike is also involved in Ambercite, which has developed and globally commercialised innovative patent searching software.  Ambercite was developed to complement conventional searching software. Mike is also the Australasian agent for the patent searching software Patseer.


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