The European Patent Office (EPO) announced earlier today that the overall number of European patent applications filed at the EPO rose in 2015 to 160,000. This represents an increase of 4.8% compared with 2014, when the EPO saw a record high 153,000 patent applications filed. This significant upward trajectory of EPO patent filings on the heels of a record high filing year in 2014 suggests that applicants see the Europe as a key market for technology and innovation.
“The remarkable growth in patent applications at the EPO proves that Europe continues to be a hub for innovators from all over the world, and an attractive technology market,” said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. “It reflects the interest of businesses and inventors in opting for high-quality patent protection for the European market.” He added: “Despite the impressive growth in applications from outside Europe, the balance of the number of patent applications made by European companies in other regions remains clearly positive, which underlines the innovative potential of the European economy.”
Meanwhile, as EPO patent filings experience record highs, there has been a decreasing number of patent applications filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Although only a modest decline of .3% during fiscal year 2015, there is no doubt that patent eligibility uncertainty, concerns about post grant proceedings and a never ending chorus of calls for patent reform are all taking their toll in America. Many within the U.S. patent industry are openly talking about protection being better, fairer and more attainable in Europe, and Europe is rapidly becoming a preferred venue for litigating patent disputes. With the unitary patent and European Patent Court on the horizon, the continued self-inflicted wounds being leveled against the patent system in America makes it all but certain that the EPO will continue to experience ever more filings moving forward.
Key Highlights: EPO Patent Filings
Some of the more revealing highlights found in the EPO patent filings announcement included:
- US filed most applications at the European Patent Office in 2015. The other top 5 countries of origin were Germany, Japan, France, and the Netherlands.
- Chinese companies increased their EPO patent application filings by 22.2% in 2015 compared to 2014, while U.S. companies increased their applications by 16% during 2015.
- Overall, medical technologies were once again the field with the largest number of patent applications filed at the EPO in 2015, growing by a further 11% over 2014.
- Dutch corporation Philips moved into the top spot on the list of companies with the most patent applications at the EPO in 2015. Samsung ranked second, followed by LG, Huawei, Siemens, United Technologies, Qualcomm, Bosch, BASF, and General Electric, meaning that the top 10 was made up of four companies from Europe, three from the US, two from Korea and one from China.
The U.S. by the EPO Numbers
The number of applications filed from U.S. companies grew by 16.4% in 2015, which represents the highest increase in five years and the second highest in the last 10 years. Last year, U.S. companies filed 42,700 patent applications with the EPO, a new record high. The U.S. share of all European patent filings also grew to 27%, from 24% in the previous year.
With 1,869 applications, United Technologies was the most active U.S. patent applicant at the EPO in 2015, more than doubling the number of applications filed in 2014. United Technologies became the new top EPO filer from the U.S. (up from third in 2014), followed by Qualcomm (1,705 applications), General Electric (1,316 applications), Intel (1,039 applications) and Microsoft (921 applications).
According to the EPO, U.S. companies also strengthened their leading position in both medical and computer technologies. In 2015, U.S. filers accounted for 41% of all patent applications relating to medical technologies (up from 39% in the previous year; Germany in second place with a 12% share) and computer technologies (up from 38%; Japan in second place with a 11% share). U.S. companies were also the biggest patent applicants in the area of digital communications, accounting for 27% (up from 26%) of all patent applications in that field, but China is quickly closing the gap with a 19% share in 2015, up from 15% in the previous year.
Apart from the increased number EPO patent filings by U.S. companies, the overall increase in EPO patent filings was otherwise mainly fueled by Chinese companies who filings were up 22.2% in 2015 compared with 2014. While also up, the volume of applications originating from the 38 EPO member states remained largely stable in comparison with 2014, up a modest 0.7%.