World Intellectual Property Indicators 2016: Design Patent Highlights

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has published its annual World Intellectual Property Indicators. The 2016 report dissects the macro trends associated with filing activity and registrations for 2015 in the following intellectual property areas: patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and plant varieties. Estimates for design patent applications are based on data from approximately 140 patent offices, encompassing both direct national and regional applications, as well as applications received through the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs.

The twenty-year era of growth in industrial design patent applications came to an abrupt end in 2014, with a substantial drop in applications filed by 10.2%. In 2015, these figures are back on the rise, with a 2.3% increase. The number of designs in applications also rose in 2015, with non-resident applicant designs being the primary catalyst for growth. China was the main contributor to the number of designs per application, providing half the global total.

Rise in Applications and Registrations

Following the severe slump in applications filed in 2014, 2015 brought growth, with a 2.3% increase (an estimated 872,800 in total). This was largely due to a surge in filings from China, the Republic of Korea, and the US, as the patent offices in those countries received an increase between 3,500 and 4,500 additional filings, each compared to the year prior. Globally, registrations rose sharply in 2015, as an estimated 729,800 industrial designs were registered worldwide in 2015, up 21.3% from the volume in 2014.

The number of designs contained in applications (design count) also showed modest growth, increasing 0.6% since 2014. In 2015, there were 3.4 million industrial design registrations in force worldwide, representing annual growth of 2.8%.  With 1.24 million active industrial design registrations, China accounted for 36% of the worldwide total. The Republic of Korea (318,027), the U.S. (293,596), Japan (251,121) and the EUIPO (182,853) were all among the top offices handling registrations.

China Sees Renewed Growth

China remains the leader in applications filed by origin at 729,340, followed by Germany (573,268), Italy (284,093), the US (278,814) and France (212,376). 2015 growth rates in registrations are also largely attributed to the high number of registrations at the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China (SIPO), which registered 482,659 industrial designs – about 121,000 more than in 2014. China also leads in the number of designs contained in applications, contributing half of the global total. These increases follow a decline in Chinese applications last year. Although China’s application output remains the highest, when adjusting for Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Republic of Korea edged out China for the highest resident design count per 100 billion US dollars (USD) of GDP.

Wealth Distributions Remain Static

The 2016 report utilizes World Bank income classifications to categorize countries into four economic groups based on gross national income per capita — low income; lower middle income; upper middle income; high income. The list of the twenty highest income patent offices features eleven offices located in high-income countries, six in upper middle-income countries and three in lower middle-income countries. High income and upper middle income countries remain at the forefront of design counts in 2015, maintaining similar distributions of wealth to those of 2014.

In 2015, high income countries contributed less to the relative percentage than they did a decade ago in 2005, with a 20.2% decrease in the total percentage of design count.  Instead, upper-middle income countries obtained the majority at 58.1% of design count, a slight growth from 2014, with China accounting for the vast majority of this share. Wealthier countries continue to contribute the highest volume of design counts, with low income and lower-middle income countries combined only achieving 4.3% of the worldwide total.

Hague Filings Show Substantial Growth

WIPO recorded 4,111 international registrations (IRs) under the Hague System in 2015, a staggering 40.6% increase since 2014. These applications contained 16,435 designs, an annual increase of 13.8%. This growth, the fastest since 2008, was partly attributed to the accessions to the System of the Republic of Korea in 2014 and Japan and the US in 2015. Germany lead this growth, with 3,453 designs in applications, followed by Switzerland (3,316 designs), France (1,317), the Republic of Korea (1,282) and Italy (1,186). Three out of these top five origins saw an increase in Hague filings, making up 64% of the total annual Hague filings. Italy (+30.9%) and Switzerland (+4%) saw growth in filings, while those from Germany and France decreased by 10.7% and 15.5%, respectively.

Locarno Classifications Stay Constant

The Locarno Classification categorizes industrial designs into one of 32 classes. Furnishings (9.4%), articles of clothing (8.3%) and packages and containers (7%) remained the most recorded classes in 2015. When these classes are categorized into 12 industry sectors, trends emerge showing the top ten offices are usually concentrated in three sectors that vary among offices. The furniture and household goods sector and the textiles and accessories sector were featured in the top three sectors for 11 of the top 15 origins in 2015, with the textiles and accessories sector as the top sector in eight of the top origins.

2015 saw an increase in industrial design patent applications in many offices worldwide, as well as growth overall. These numbers include substantial increases in Hague filings driven by the system’s newest members:  the Republic of Korea, Japan and the US.  The increase is also driven by renewed participation from China globally.  As more countries, including China, join the Hague system, it is very likely that the growth trend will continue in the foreseeable future.


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