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IP & Innovation Report 2013: How Australia Stacks Up

IP Australia has released earlier this year, the Australian Intellectual Property Report 2013, which provides information and statistics about the Australian intellectual property system, and about Australia’s place in the international intellectual property arena.

The report identified some significant trends, including that:

  • Australia ranks third in Global IP Index: Australia’s IP system ranks third globally in the latest Global IP Index which is based on effectiveness and administrative performance. Notably, every part of Australia’s IP system considered by the Global IP Index is ranked in the top ten.
  • Australia is a net importer of IP and technology: Australia pays out more than it earns. It is stated in the report however, that being a net importer of IP does not necessarily have adverse economic implications as long as imported knowledge and technology translates into improved domestic productivity.
  • Australia’s technology trade deficit: is driven by Switzerland, Japan, the United States and the EU. Australia holds a technology trade surplus with most Asian countries and foreign companies invest more in conducting research and development in Australia than Australians invest overseas.

Some of the most interesting of this year's statistics are considered in more detail below.

1.    Overseas Patent and Trade Mark filings by Australians

Australians appear to be taking their innovations elsewhere, reflecting the great importance of the United States as a market for Australian innovations, as well as the increasing market opportunities and regional advantages ascending in Asia.


  • Australians filed 58% more patent applications overseas than in Australia.
  • In total, 44% of overseas applications were made in the United States, while 30% were in Asia. 

Trade Marks

  • Almost 40% of Australian trade mark filings overseas are in Asia, with China receiving 19% of the total overseas applications and New Zealand receiving 17%.  

2.     Patent and Trade Mark filings in Australia


  • 90% of the 26,358 standard patent applications in 2012 were made by non-Australian residents.
  • United States residents filed the highest number of applications in Australia. 
  • Applications for innovation patents have risen abruptly, from 1341 in 2009, to 1856 in 2012. Most of the increase is as a result of overseas filings, with  China being the main player. 

Trade Marks  

  • Trade mark applications now exceed pre-GFC levels.
  • Australian residents filed 66% of total applications for 2012. 
  • The bulk of non-resident applications originated in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. 

More applications for trade marks and patents were filed in Australia during 2012 compared with the previous three years, indicating growth in innovative activity and an increased awareness of the commercial benefits offered by intellectual property rights. This is good news.

The bad news is seeing Australia’s low level of investment in innovation, compared with other developed countries. This is emphasised in IP Australia’s report, which indicates that the proportion of Australia’s national stock of intangible to tangible assets is a simple 4%, compared to 91% in the United States.

Australian businesses and individuals need to start getting serious about IP and innovation to remain competitive on the world stage.

Top IP tips

  • As a first step you should consider conducting an audit of your existing IP assets in order to identify any gaps in coverage and detect opportunities for extracting greater value (through licensing for example).
  • Also, you may consider offering incentives to employees for innovative ideas and provide training, particularly for those staff involved with product development and procurement. 
  • More importantly, you should ensure that your business plan includes strategies for maximising innovation and the value of any intangible assets. 

You can access the Australian Intellectual Property Report 2013 here (hyperlink please) www.ipaustralia.gov.au/pdfs/Australian_IP_Report_2013-web_version.pdf

Fabiola Dos Santos

5 September 2013