There were 174,317 patent applications filed at the European Patent Office in 2018, according to figures in its Annual Report published today (March 12). That represents an increase of 4.6% on 2017, when there were 166,594 applications.
The number of patents granted also increased. The EPO published 127,625 granted patents in 2018, up 21% on 2017.
U.S. entities are once again the most prominent applicants at the EPO, accounting for 25% of all applications in 2018. The U.S. is followed by Germany (15%), Japan (13%), France (6%) and China (5%). Applications from Germany grew by 4.7%, which the EPO attributed to an upward trend in the automotive sector and related areas, such as sensors and other measuring devices.
The top applicant at the EPO in 2018 was Siemens (2,493 applications) followed by Huawei, Samsung and LG. United Technologies ranked fifth and was the highest-placed U.S. company, with 1,983 applications. Other prominent U.S. companies were Qualcomm (1,593 applications), General Electric (1,307) and Intel (1,057).
Medical technology was the leading technical field, with 13,795 applications, an increase of 5%, followed by Digital communication (11,940 applications) and Computer technology (11,718 applications). There was significant growth in Measurement (up 9.3%), Pharmaceuticals (up 13.9%) and Biotechnology (up 12.1%) but a decline in Organic fine chemistry (down 3.6%).
U.S. companies punched above their weight in some technical areas, accounting for 38% of applications in Computer technology, Medical technology and Pharmaceuticals, and 32% of those in Biotechnology.
Microsoft was the leading applicant in Computer technology, while Johnson & Johnson was ranked number 1 in Medical technology. In Transport, Airbus was ranked first, with United Technologies second.
Overall, the EPO said large enterprises accounted for 71% of applications, SMEs and individual inventors for 20% and universities and public research organizations for 9%.
Commenting on the results, EPO President António Campinos said that it is “good news for the European economy.” He continued:
“Demand for patent protection continues to grow, which means inventors and businesses see Europe as an attractive and valuable technology market to innovate and invest. Europe therefore needs a competitive and robust patent system, especially given that in the EU, IP-intensive industries account for around 38% of jobs, 42% of GDP and 90% of external trade.”
The numbers include direct European applications and PCT applications that entered the European phase during 2018.
The European patent system now covers a total of 44 countries in Europe, North Africa and Asia comprising 38 member states, two extension states (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro) and four validation states (Morocco, Republic of Moldova, Tunisia and Cambodia).
The EPO is due to start examining and granting Unitary Patents once the proposed system comes into force. At the moment, the Unitary Patent is on hold pending the outcome of a challenge before Germany’s Constitutional Court. If and when they are introduced, Unitary Patents will cover 25 participating EU member states.
Images Source: European Patent Office 2018 Annual Report