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EXCLUSIVE – Leveraging innovative digital technologies to transform customer experience at IP Australia

EXCLUSIVE Leveraging innovative digital technologies to transform customer experience at IP Australia

Today governments around the world and in Australia are seeking to
leverage digital technologies to reimagine how they deliver services to
customers. IP Australia is a
leading public sector agency in the country in this area of digital

At IP Australia, which administers
intellectual property (IP) rights and legislation relating to patents, trade
marks, designs and plant breeder's rights, the digital uptake
improved from 12% to 99.6% within a period of less than four years, covering
over 850,000 transactions annually. This makes IP Australia the first federal
government agency to transform into a fully digital service delivery agency.

OpenGov spoke to Mr
Rob Bollard, IP Australia’s CIO (Chief Information Officer) and General Manager
of the Innovation and Technology Group, to learn
about the organisation’s digital transformation journey.

IP Australia’s vision to have a world leading IP system that builds prosperity for Australia.
Technology and innovation is a key enabler for achieving that vision.

Mr Bollard said that there are three components of the
agency’s digital strategy: Fix, Modernise and Transform.

‘Fix’ is about addressing yesterday’s shortcomings and
moving off legacy platforms and applications. Modernisation involves evolving
the ICT operations, by utilising contemporary technology for continuous
delivery, API-based integration services and shifting to cloud-based

Transformation is about testing and building on innovative
digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence, pervasive automation,
intelligent assistance and big data. The aim is to use these technologies to
give IP Australia a competitive edge. 

As part of this process, the agency has introduced a range of innovative digital services such as IP Folio, Virtual
Assistant Alex
and the Australian
Trade Mark Search

IP Folio

IP Folio is
IP Australia’s first fully mobile app. It was released to the public on 6
December 2017 and launched by the then Assistant Minister for Industry,
Innovation and Science, Craig Laundy.

It has been
described as the first customer-focussed mobile app to be developed by any IP
Rights agency globally. The data-rich, real-time and mobile-first app was
developed in collaboration with Canberra-based company, Agile Digital.

The app is
effectively a digital wallet for IP Rights and allows a customer to monitor the
progress of a Trade Mark application, receive notifications of key status changes
to a Trade Mark, and ‘watch’ or ‘favourite’ selected Trade Marks.

Mr Bollard elaborated,
“We have adopted an agile approach with delivery focusing on Trade Marks
capability first – around 60% of Trade Mark applicants are Australian small
business or innovators who have never navigated the IP system.” 

is on track for the next version of IP Folio to be released later this year.
The new version will feature the addition of Patents functionality and Android
compatibility. There are plans for further integration with IP Australia’s
online services in the near future.

Assistant Alex

Alex is IP
Australia’s virtual assistant who has been working 24/7 to deal with customer
enquiries. Alex uses a combination of advanced natural language processing
(NLP) and machine learning to better support customers.

Since her
launch in mid-2016, she has managed more than 78,000 customer interactions till
date and now handles 38% of total incoming enquiries to the agency.

Alex has
helped streamline the customer experience through an omni-channel digital
presence on IP Australia’s website, social media and electronic correspondence.

Through the
virtual assistant’s deployment as part of a digital engagement strategy, IP
Australia now has only one-third of the calls from 3 years ago. This
improvement was achieved while maintaining our high customer satisfaction of

The latest
Enhancement to Alex includes the introduction of Nuance Coach in September 2017 – an Asia-Pacific first. Nuance Coach uses AI and the
latest in advanced machine learning technology to enable Alex to utilise
ingested information to respond to increasingly complex questions.

“We will
continue to evolve Alex in 2018,” said Mr Bollard. The team plans to integrate
Alex within IP Australia’s authenticated platform to further understand
attributes of the customer and tailor responses accordingly. This would help
ensure that customers go experience a highly personalised and seamless
interaction with IP Australia. 

The success
of Alex’s integration with IP Australia digital channels led to IP Australia
and Datacom receiving a 2017 Silver Stevie Award for Innovation in Technology
Development, and being recognised at the 4th Annual Opus Intelligent Assistant Awards in San Francisco in September 2017.

Trade Mark Search

Australia built an online trade mark search system in the mid-1990s. Over time the
agency’s customers felt it needed to evolve. IP Australia decided to replace
the system entirely and take the opportunity to adopt industry-leading

With the
launch of the Australian Trade Mark Search at PauseFest in
February 2017, IP Australia became one of the first intellectual property
agencies in the world to make combined machine learning and image recognition
technology available to the public for searching trade marks, free of charge. The
technology mimics the problem-solving networks of the human brain.

The tool
was developed by Queensland start-up, TrademarkVision.

The tool’s
technology uses multiple algorithms to detect objects within an image and make
instantaneous comparisons across Australia’s entire trade mark database of over
400,000 images, returning visually similar images within seconds. This makes
searching for similar logos simpler and faster.

The system
has made searching for Australian trade marks easier for small businesses and
introduced powerful features for intellectual property professionals. It
receives over 1 million pageviews from 40,000 customers each month and it has
not gone through any downtime since its launch.

Trade Mark Search was recognised with an award at the Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Sector Management in November of 2017.

All of
these examples of adopting world-leading technology are fundamentally about
making intellectual property information easily accessible to all Australians.

“People can now have a digital wallet on their mobile phones
which is something you would have never seen 3 or 4 years ago. It provides much
more convenience and transparency of information,” said Mr Bollard.

“Technology provides a fantastic opportunity for improving effectiveness
and efficiency in the way we deliver our services. It provides ways for us to delight
our customers and deliver our 24/7 citizen-centric model that is being demanded
by people today for government services.”   

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