In the climate change debate, the EPO lets the facts do the talking: its examiners have been using their classification skills to identify trends in clean energy patenting, helping to provide a sound statistical basis for climate policy negotiations.
In 2009 there were 1 259 filings in wind and water power, photovoltaics, solar thermal energy and biomass alone, a 27 % rise on the year before.
Wind as a renewable energy source has long been a research field that generates a substantial number of patent applications. In 2009 this number increased by 51 % to 432. Seventy percent of these applications were filed by residents of the US, Germany and Denmark, with nearly a third of them coming from General Electric.
Applications for photovoltaic technology have been on the increase recently, and 363 were filed with the EPO in 2009, a 10 % increase over 2008. Half of the 2009 applications were filed by Japanese and American companies, and the leading applicants were Sanyo, Sharp, Micron Technology and Sony.
In 2009 there were 116 European patent applications relating to water power as a renewable energy source. That's a small proportion of all the applications filed, but the total has risen steadily over the last five years and grew by 26 % in 2009. Many companies from a broad range of countries are active in the field, and European companies are heavily involved, with half of the 2009 total originating from the UK, Germany, Spain, Ireland and Norway. The leading applicant was Openhydro.
In 2009 there were 149 European patent applications relating to biomass as a renewable energy source. This is a small fraction of all the applications received, but the total has grown steadily over the last five years and rose by 6 % in 2009. About half of the 2009 total originated from the US, Germany and the Netherlands, and Shell and the Institut Français du Pétrole were the leading applicants.
In 2009 the number of applications relating to solar thermal energy rose by 39 % to 199. Europe leads the way, with a third of the applications filed coming from German companies, including leading applicant Bosch.