05 March 2024

Large vs Small, Group Ownership vs Independent – What Factors Influenced Firms’ Patent Filing Share in 2023?

Business ups and downsAs I recently reported, Australian patent filings in 2023 fell slightly, by 2.4%, over the previous year.  This implies, of course, that patent attorneys filing applications on behalf of domestic and foreign clients should, overall, also have experienced a similar decline new filings.  But, of course, individual firms fared differently in the competition for this work.  Looking at new complete (i.e. non-provisional) patent filings across Australia and New Zealand, declines were experienced by all firms held within the two groups owned by Australian Securities Exchange listed entities IPH Limited (ASX:IPH) and QANTM IP Limited (ASX:QIP).  IPH firms Spruson & Ferguson, Griffith Hack, AJ Park, and Pizzeys filings declined by 5.0%, 3.6%, 14.9% and 6.9% respectively,  QANTM IP firms Davies Collison Cave and FPA Patent Attorneys filings declined by 13.2% and 8.8% respectively. 

But it was not only the listed group firms that saw declines in excess of the 2.4% average.  Of the leading ten firms, only Phillips Ormonde Fitzpatrick (+3.1%) and Madderns (+10.3%) achieved growth in filing numbers.  While ownership structure is one possible factor influencing client choice, firm size (irrespective of ownership) appears also to be (negatively) correlated with filing growth.  Additionally, the number of new patent filings fell significantly in New Zealand, which disproportionately impacted those trans-Tasman firms – most notably A J Park – with a higher exposure to the market for New Zealand patent services.

Overall, the share of Australian patent filings has continued to shift generally away from larger and/or listed group firms in favour of smaller independent firms.  But even this trend is not simple to unpack.  For many years now, IPH firms have shed filing share, while the QANTM IP firms have held fairly steady, although they experienced a notable decline in share in 2023.  On the other hand, the top six independent firms that have been in continuous operation since IPH initially listed in 2014 have collectively gained 6.3% filing share over this period.  However, bigger gains have been made by the numerous small (i.e. employing fewer than 10 patent attorneys), independent, practices that account for just over half of the trans-Tasman patent attorneys working in private practice.  There are over 150 such practices, including the two rapidly-growing recent entrants RnB IP and GLMR, which have collectively gained 11.8% filing share since 2014, and now account for nearly 23% of all Australian complete patent filings.

Let’s look at the numbers in more detail.

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