Australia: The highs and lows of the 2019 Australian IP Report

Last Updated: 16 July 2019
Article by Georgina Hey and Frances Drummond

The highs and lows of the 2019 Australian IP Report

To mark .World Intellectual Property Day, IP Australia released its seventh edition of the Australian Intellectual Property Report 2019 (Report). The Report provides a snapshot of the Australian IP landscape in 2018 by consolidating data, highlighting trends and critically analysing its future.

In this article, we highlight some key statistics that arise from the Report, as well as outline some interesting research conducted in the trade marks and designs space.


Patent applications increased worldwide, averaging around 8% annual growth from 2010 to 2016.

Conversely, Australian patent filings in the same period have only grown by 2%, leaving Australia ranked 8th amongst OECD nations in terms of patent growth.

Although the innovation patent is being phased out, applications increased by 24% in 2018.

Patent grants fell by a whopping 25% in 2018.

Who is applying?

Non-residents accounted for 91% of standard patent applications and grants in 2018.

Resident applicants accounted for 51% of innovative patent applications in 2018.

Resident applications grew at a faster rate (9%) than that of non-residents (3%). This was largely due to flat growth in United States (US) applicants, who make up 45% of all applications.

Trade Marks

Trade mark applications and registrations reached a record high in 2018 – albeit by modest 4% growth.

Who is applying?

Unlike patent applications, resident applications make up 58% of applications.

However, application growth was almost entirely attributable to non-resident applications, which grew by 11%, whilst resident applications fell by less than 1%.

The top 5 sources of foreign trade mark applications are the US (over 12%), China (7%), UK (3%) and Germany (3%).

What are they applying for?

On average, 1.9 classes were nominated per each application filed.

The top five classes are: Technological and electronic apparatus (class 9), advertising (class 35), education, training and entertainment (class 41), scientific and technological services (class 42), and clothing, footwear and headgear (class 25).

Does the Australian Trade Mark Register Spark Joy?

In its 2016 Inquiry Report into Australias IP Arrangements, the Productivity Commission warned that trade mark cluttering may be a potential problem. A trade mark register is cluttered when it is crowded by unused or overly broad marks, which become costly and onerous obstacles for new applicants. In response to the Commissions inquiry, the government reduced the period before a trade mark is vulnerable to non-use cancellation from five to three years in February 2019.

However, the government may have been too quick to call in Marie Kondo. According to the Report, although there is an increasing number of cluttering marks, they form only a small proportion of all active marks on the register. In reaching its conclusion, IP Australia analysed several factors explored below.

Although the number of marks removed for non-use have doubled in the last decade, they represent less than 0.1% of the total marks on the register, in line with the general trend noted above.

On the basis that single-word trade marks are generally considered more valuable to businesses (concise and memorable), IP Australia also investigated how many of the 1000 most popular words are registered as trade marks in Australia. They found that only 56% of the list were registered, compared to 86% in the US. This statistic seems to have been extrapolated to indicate that there are still a large number of one-word trade marks available for use and registration, and therefore a lack of cluttering, although this could be viewed as a questionable logical conclusion.

The Report acknowledges that the low rate of trade mark renewal after the first ten-year registration term, may indicate the presence of trade marks in their ninth or tenth year, that are unused and therefore cluttering the register. However, one could argue that this is adequately dealt with through the non-renewal of these registrations.

While IP Australia seems satisfied with the state of its trade mark register at present, it may consider the following strategies when its time for tidying:

  • reducing the non-use cancellation grace period further;
  • reducing ten-year term of protection;
  • requiring a statement of use or intention to use at time of application; and
  • a Post Registration Proof of Use Audit Program, where randomly selected trade mark registrants are required to prove use of their mark (which its US counterparts launched in 2017).

Designs: Why is Australia lagging behind?

The Report includes a recent study, revealing that Australia has lagged behind other countries in terms of growth in both design IP intensity and design labour intensity. That is, Australia has a relatively low number of registered designs and persons employed in design-related occupations compared to countries such as Switzerland and the United Kingdom, which have stronger design economies.

The low uptake of design rights in Australia can be attributed to a number of concerning factors, such as the insufficient maximum design protection term of ten years, and perceived comparable high costs for certification and enforcement of design rights. However, there are sound reasons for utilising this underappreciated area of IP protection. Design registrations can provide relatively efficient high level rights if implemented appropriately and it is therefore disappointing to see the level of underutilisation.

In response, the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property made a number of recommendations in their Review of the Designs System, some of which have been accepted by the Australian Government, including:

  • reducing fees for multiple design applications;
  • increasing international harmonisation to reduce red tape associated with exporting and hence, the cost of design protection; and
  • extending the maximum term of design protection to fifteen years if a decision is made to join the Hague Agreement.

What design rights are people interested in?

It was also found that Australians register their designs under significantly different product areas (Locarno classes) compared to non-Australian applicants. Our designers tend to focus on Clothing (class 2), Furnishings (class 6), Buildings units and construction elements (class 25) product classes, whilst non-resident applicants mainly register their designs under the Recording, telecommunication or data processing equipment product class (class 14).

In particular, the US is a major importer of computing equipment. The Report considers the changing nature of the US design workforce as designers are moving from computer manufacturing to online services. It asserts that due to such change, there needs to be a stronger focus on the protection of virtual or non-physical designs in Australia (see our article here). This would be one simple way to increase the use of the registered design system in an area which is becoming increasingly relevant to our everyday lives.

Final comments

The latest statistics highlight some concerning areas for IP rights in Australia, including the relative shrinking of patent filings in Australia against global filing statistics, and the reduction in the number of Australian designers seeking to register their designs as a proportion of the overall filing figures. Perhaps some of the patent filing reductions can be accounted for by global economic movements, and the delayed impact of some of the Raising the Bar changes that have taken place in Australia.

It is positive to see that the relatively minor changes to the Australian trade mark systems are not apparently slowing the growth of filings in that area.

Australias IP regime has traditionally been seen amongst the best in the world. Despite the latest reduction in some filing statistics, IP Australias review does indicate a positive desire to monitor the IP rights landscape in the face of the relatively large number of changes made to the Australian IP regime over the past few years.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions