30 January 2022

Huawei the Top Recipient of Australian Patents in 2021, as Total Annual Grants Remain Steady

ApprovedEach January, there is great interest in the leading recipients of US patents issued during the previous year and, in particular, whether IBM will once again retain the leading position it has held for over two decades.  The answer to that question for 2021 is ‘yes’, although the size of IBM’s lead depends upon which data provider you choose to believe.  IFI CLAIMS Patent Services – which has provided an annual summary for many years – has IBM receiving 8,682 US patents in 2021, comfortably ahead of Samsung Electronics on 6,366, followed by Canon with 3,021.  In comparison, Harrity Patent Analytics – which began publishing its own independent reports in recent years – has IBM on 8,540, with Samsung nipping at its heels on 8,517, and both comfortably clear of LG in third spot with 4,368.  (Harrity has Canon in fourth, with 3,400 US patents issued in 2021, while IFI CLAIMS has LG at eighth, on 2,487 US patents.) 

So, who to believe?  My guess is that they are both right-ish – subject to the challenges of correctly identifying and matching applicant and assignee information in the raw USPTO data – but that IFI CLAIMS and Harrity are probably accounting differently for patents granted to related companies, such as subsidiaries and corporate group members.  It is notable that the two largest discrepancies among the top patent recipients are between Samsung and LG, both of which are South Korean chaebol – family conglomerates – which can be notoriously labyrinthine in their structures, and diverse in their product offerings.

I have conducted a corresponding analysis for Australian patent grants in 2021, and while Samsung and LG also both feature among the top recipients, the number one spot goes to China’s Huawei Technologies, which received 193 Australian patents last year.  As far as counting is concerned, I keep things simple – named applicants are treated as the same entity if they have the same name, the same corporate identity, and the same country of residence, otherwise they are different.  The Korean entity LG Electronics Inc placed second, receiving 186 Australian patents, while Samsung Electronics Ltd placed 10th, with 68 patents. 

After Huawei and LG, the top five places were filled out by Qualcomm, Apple, and Adobe – all US entities – with 170, 157, and 103 patents, respectively.

The leading Australian resident patent recipients were the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), with 48 patents (coincidentally, the same as the number of new standard patent applications it filed in 2021) and Aristocrat Technologies, with 47 patents, placing them 23rd and 24th respectively.

In 2021, IP Australia granted 17,155 standard patents.  While the total number of standard patent applications filed has generally increased over the years – from 25,563 in 2011 to 30,343 in 2021 – the number of patents granted has not followed the same trend.  In fact, between 2018 and 2021 there were slightly fewer patents granted each year, on average, than between 2011 and 2013.

US resident entities are by far the largest users of the Australian patent system, receiving 7,629 standard patents in 2021.  Second and third places were taken by China and Japan.  Chinese applicants had the largest growth in patent grants, of nearly 24%, surpassing Japanese applicants, whose total grants fell by 5% in 2021.  Australian residents – despite having consistently been the second largest filers of patent applications – are only the fourth most common recipients of granted patents, reflecting the fact that they are more likely than non-resident applicants to abandon applications before grant. 

Read on for all the facts and figures.

27 January 2022

Huawei Takes Top Spot in Australian Patent Filings, While Aristocrat Slides Down Rankings

2021-2022 SignpostThis article was updated on 11 February 2022 to correct errors in some of the filing numbers.  I have also published a brief explanation and summary of the most significant changes.

After two years on top of Australian patent filing charts – including a remarkable (by Australian standards) 435 applications in 2020 – Chinese telecommunications manufacturer OPPO dropped back to third position in 2021.  Last year’s runner-up, South Korea’s LG Electronics, once again took second place, filing 251 new Australian standard patent applications up from 236 in 2020.  China’s Huawei Technologies moved into the top spot, with 255 new applications, up from 229 in 2020.  Huawei now owns around 1,300 live Australian patents and applications, which is a significant investment for a company that is effectively barred from the Australian market.  It is likely, however, that many of these patents and applications cover standardised mobile and data communications technologies that are implemented across the industry, and which therefore provide Huawei with a substantial stream of licensing income.

The top Australian resident applicant, once again, was electronic gaming system developer Aristocrat Technologies.  However, from a peak of 252 applications filed in 2018, Aristocrat’s filings have declined significantly.  It filed only 72 new standard patent applications in 2021, falling to equal 25th place in the annual ranking.  Over the same period, Aristocrat has been engaged in a Federal Court battle with the Australian Patent Office in an effort to establish the patent-eligibility of many of its gaming-related inventions, recently suffering a setback in the form of a loss on appeal to a Full Bench of the Court.

The leading antipodean applicant is now New Zealand’s Fisher & Paykel Healthcare (which is separate these days from the well-known maker of home appliances).  Fisher & Paykel Healthcare filed 130 Australian standard patent applications in 2021, up from 94 the previous year, to take 7th place in the rankings.  Ironically, the leading filer of New Zealand patent applications in 2021 was Australian medical device manufacturer Resmed, with 142 filings, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare appears to have no interest in patent protection in its domestic market.  Meanwhile, Resmed followed the opposite trans-Tasman strategy, filing just 28 applications in its home market of Australia.

No other Australian (or New Zealand) applicant appeared in the top 30 filers for 2021.  The next highest Australian applicant, after Aristocrat, was the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), with 52 applications, followed by NewSouth Innovations (the University of New South Wales’ commercialisation arm) on 30.  The Australian top five was rounded out by Resmed (28) and Breville (27).

The top three filers of provisional applications were CSIRO (56), Resmed (51), and NewSouth Innovations (47).

Innovation patent filings were dominated, in the final few months of full operation of the system, by Chinese and Indian applicants, of which the top two were China’s Qingdao Agricultural University, and the delightfully-named Lovely Professional University in India.  The leading ‘credible’ filers of innovation patent applications in 2021 were US-based Calerpillar Inc (31 filings), agricultural chemical developer Imtrade Australia (26 filings), and Australian radio technology company Benelec (14 filings).

Read on for full tables of the leading filers for each application type.

26 January 2022

Australian Patent Filings Up in 2021, Aided by Innovation Patent’s Demise

2021-2022This article was updated on 11 February 2022 to correct errors in some of the filing numbers.  I have also published a brief explanation and summary of the most significant changes.

The number of standard patent applications filed in Australia exceeded 30,000 for the first time in 2021, increasing by more than 10% over the previous year, and following on from two successive years of decline.  Growth came through both direct national filings and PCT national phase entry (NPE) filings.  Standard application filings by Australian residents experienced particularly strong growth, increasing by 26% over 2020 numbers, while applications by foreign residents grew by just over 9%.

At first blush this looks like good news for Australian applicants, and thus for innovation in Australia.  But the headline figures conceal a distorting influence on filing behaviour in 2021, namely the phasing out of the innovation patent system.  It was entirely predictable that thousands of new innovation patent applications would be filed in the weeks leading up to the final deadline of 25 August 2021.  What might have been less obvious is that the beginning-of-the-end of the innovation patent system would also lead to a spike in filings of new standard patent applications.  Australian residents, in particular, filed more than six times as many direct standard applications in August 2021 as compared with a ‘normal’ month, accounting for a significant proportion of the overall growth in resident filings for the year.  All of these applications with a filing date on or before 25 August 2021 are able to provide a basis for future divisional innovation patent filings, for as long as they remain pending, and up to the final expiry date of the innovation patent system on 25 August 2029.

The down side of this boost in Australian resident filings, assuming that they indeed represent applications brought forward to beat the innovation patent deadline, is that we should expect to see a corresponding decline in the coming 12 months, just as we did following introduction of the Raising the Bar patent reforms in 2013.

Provisional filings suffered a further decline – the largest since 2013 – of nearly 12%.  No doubt this can also be attributed at least partly to the phase out of the innovation patent system, with some applicants electing to file an innovation or standard application directly, prior to 26 August 2021, rather than file a provisional application as a basis for a future priority claim.  The 2013 drop in provisional filings was similarly influenced by a desire to get a standard patent application into the system, and request examination, prior to commencement of the Raising the Bar patent law reforms.  But even accounting for these disruptions, provisional filings have been in a general decline for many years, and 2021 looks to be a continuation of that trend.  Provisional applications are filed almost exclusively by Australian residents, so this is not a good sign for the state of innovation and IP protection in Australia.

In a surprising turn of events, the growth in standard filings by Chinese applicants did not continue in 2021.  Following a number of consecutive years of significant growth, I had previously predicted that 2021 could be the year in which filings by Chinese applicants surpassed those of Australian residents.  But the jump in Australian filings combined with flat filings from China to defeat that expectation.  (For now.)

Australians have therefore remained the second largest users of their own patent system, with US residents once again being overwhelmingly the top filers.  Standard applications from the US increased by 11.5% in 2021, following a 1.6% decline in 2020.  Of the other members of the top five countries of origin – China, Japan, and Germany – only Japan experienced a decline in 2021.

But enough with the summary – let’s look at some charts and tables!

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