EPO Applications Up 4%, Led by Digital Communication and Computer Technology, 5.5% Rise in U.S. Applicants

By James Nurton
March 13, 2020

“U.S. entities also featured prominently in medical technology, accounting for 40% of all patent applications in this sector, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.”

https://depositphotos.com/86141172/stock-photo-european-patent-office.htmlPatent applications filed at the European Patent Office (EPO) rose 4% to 181,406 in 2019, driven by substantial increases from Chinese, Korean and U.S. applicants, according to a report published by the Office yesterday.

The United States was the number one country of residence of applicants, with 46,201 applications—a rise of 5.5%. This accounted for 25% of all European patent applications. The U.S. was followed by Germany and Japan. Applications from the People’s Republic of China increased by 29.2% to 12,247 putting the country in fourth place, while those from the Republic of Korea grew by 14.1%.

There were notable increases in applications for digital communication (up 19.6% to 14,175 applications in total) and computer technology (up 10.2% to 12,774). U.S. applications in these two fields grew by 14.6% and 13.6% respectively, having decreased in 2018.

The top three applicants overall were Huawei, Samsung and LG. The highest-placed U.S. applicant was United Technologies, which ranked fourth with 2,813 applications. Qualcomm was 6th with 1,668 but there were no other U.S. entities in the top 10.

“Patent applications from the U.S. grew strongly at the EPO in 2019, with the U.S. being one of the main drivers in making digital communication and computer technology the fastest rising technology fields,” said EPO President António Campinos. U.S. entities also featured prominently in medical technology, accounting for 40% of all patent applications in this sector, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

One of the most notable increases came in the transport field (including the automotive and aeronautics sectors), where applications from U.S. entities grew by 17%. This could indicate increased patenting activity relating to emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles, electric power and alternative fuels.

Full details of the Patent Index 2019 are available online. There is a special report on digital technologies covering the fourth industrial revolution, artificial intelligence and 5G, as well as analysis of the data by EPO Chief Business Analyst Aidan Kendrick and Chief Economist Yann Ménière.

Source: http://documents.epo.org/projects/babylon/eponet.nsf/0/26767BC3D0AEB95AC125852300359E0E/$FILE/epo_patent_index_2019_infographic_en.pdf

Source: EPO

The Author

James Nurton

James Nurton is a freelance journalist and editor, based in London, United Kingdom. He was previously editor of Managing Intellectual Property magazine and has worked on publications and events for AIPPI, AIPLA, INTA, WIPO, the EPO and EUIPO. He is editorial consultant to MARQUES and a partner of Lextel, which provides editorial and thought leadership services to law firms.

For more information or to contact James, visit his Firm Profile Page.

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Discuss this

There are currently 9 Comments comments.

  1. angry dude March 13, 2020 1:02 pm

    It would be interesting to see the statistics of EPO patent applications from US applicants who did not file corresponding USPTO applications

    Anyone ?

  2. MaxDrei March 13, 2020 1:30 pm

    I’ll bite. I’m a European patent attorney.

    I have no stats but they ought not to be impossible to mine out of data published by the EPO. In my long experience though, Applicants from the USA always file first at the USPTO before they file at the EPO, and a considerable number of them file only at the USPTO and nowhere else. This would explain why so many US-originating patent applications are drafted optimally for the USA but disastrously for success anywhere else in the world.

    I doubt that things have changed recently, Mr Angry, despite your criticisms of the US patent system. In fact it is the other way around. Applicants from the USA rail about the EPC and its restriction of patentability to subject matter that employs a combination of “technical” features to solve a “technical” problem.

  3. angry dude March 13, 2020 2:12 pm

    MaxDrei @2


    I understand your rant about “technical” problem
    We are on the same page here – I solved important technical problem
    so I could get a patent from EPO but instead got useless patent from USPTO…

    And my very technical US patent will be treated just as bad .. probably worse than any non-technical junk patent USPTO issued over the years
    I’m sure it will be treated far worse than Bunch-o-Balloons patent just because of 101…

    If I had to do it again I would stay from USPTO as far as possible – there is nothing but liability there
    Once people finally realize this there won’t be any small patent applicants at the USPTO – only large ones – which is completely opposite to the spirit of the US Patent System as created by the Founding Fathers
    But unfortunately new sucker is born every day . ..so USPTO still gets some fees from unsuspecting victims

  4. MaxDrei March 13, 2020 6:32 pm

    Angry Dude, you misunderstand. Mine was no rant. And if you had spent your money on filing and arguing at the EPO instead of the USPTO you would have found out that it’s not you but, rather, the EPO that decides what “technical” means. I venture to suggest that you would have got out of the EPO nothing more than you got out of the USPTO.

    There is no conspiracy against you. Patent Offices want to grant patents. It is what they do. It is how they make money. Resisting Applicants is boring and expensive. They don’t do it if they are given any alternative.

  5. angry dude March 13, 2020 7:34 pm



    I know what “techical” means
    Any algo built into cell phone’s processor is techical by definition
    Not the app – the actual hardware
    I do not need to publicly disclose my inventions unless i am given something in return. Period.

  6. MaxDrei March 14, 2020 6:10 am

    Dude, the EPO would agree with you, that your hardware has “technical character” Ergo, it is eligible at the EPO. The more challenging enquiry is whether your invention delivers any “technical effect” because, if it doesn’t, at the EPO it doesn’t qualify as patentably inventive. Lots of algo’s deliver some sort of “effect” but relatively few of them deliver an effect that is “technical”. Patents are granted for new and non-obvious contributions to the useful arts. Contributions to other arts don’t count. Sorting the few sheep from the many goats is a sophisticated business, best conducted by those with the proper qualifications and experience.

    It follows, that inventors ought to entrust the highly sophisticated task of drafting their patent applications to a qualified specialist. After all, in the FtF world of today, inventors are given only one chance to get the drafting right.

    And yes, of course; the choice is yours, whether to file for a patent or to keep your invention a trade secret. Is anybody saying something other than that? Or are you alluding in your comment to the 18 month publication rule and whether or not the patent systems of the world still honour the “quid pro quo” (20 years exclusivity as a reward for making an enabling disclosure available to the public)?

  7. MaxDrei March 14, 2020 6:31 am

    James, what I think is interesting here is how the EPO counts the number of applications filed. If you file PCT, anywhere in the world, the EPO computer gives it an application number. So, Chinese operators like Huawei could suggest that they were avid EPO-filers. But what if Applicant chooses not to enter the PCT national phase at the EPO? They don’t get a patent in Europe but their WO publications still block their American competitors filing under the AIA at the USPTO. It has always been my understanding that the Chinese leading players are bulk PCT filers but relatively frugal with their EPO entry cases. Not so any more, it seems.

    You see, readers, what we have here from the EPO Report is the number of Huawei cases entering the EPO national phase, and that is a higher number than those of their US competitors. It seems then that, these days, the Chinese (and the Koreans) are investing more in the European market than are the big American multi’s. A sign of things to come?

  8. Anon March 14, 2020 12:03 pm

    are granted for new and non-obvious contributions to the useful arts


    MaxDrei, must I again remind you that the US Sovereign choice of Useful Arts is NOT the same as “technical?”

  9. angry dude March 14, 2020 1:29 pm

    MaxDrei @7

    “A sign of things to come?”


    Like I said: Chinese Master is coming with a big whip so they should get their ar$e$ ready… (not a Russian blonde dominatrix – no such luck for them)

    But right now they have Coronavirus break to think it over …