In global terms, the demand for patent protection is on the rise (4% increase in filings in 2011 compared to 2010). The share of the 38 EPO member states fell slightly to 38% of the total and filings from the USA, showing a similar trend, accounted for 24% of all filings. In contrast, China, Japan and Korea experienced a veritable boom in patents in 2011 and together now make up 32% of total European filings, with China growing by an impressive 33%, Japan by 13% and Korea by just above 7%.
Medical technology was the leading technical field with 9 351 applications in 2011. Since 2001, the number of EPO filings in that field has doubled. Other technical fields showing an increase were electrical machinery, apparatus and energy (8 550 applications), computer technology (7 561 applications), and digital communications (7 161 applications). The strongest decline in comparison to the previous year was in the fields of pharmaceuticals and telecommunications.
In 2010, a rule change concerning divisional applications came into effect at the EPO. Due to the new regulation, the number of divisional applications increased sharply in 2010 and, despite falling again by several thousand in 2011, still remained far above the levels recorded in and before 2009. For the purpose of comparison, we have published the figures excluding divisional applications. The figures in brackets include the so-called "divisionals".
Among the EPO member states, Germany again filed the most applications (13.6%), followed by France (5.0%), Switzerland (3.2%), the UK (2.6%) and the Netherlands (2.5%). While filings from France were 3.3% up on the 2010 mark, the figures for Germany were practically unchanged (+0.1%) and those for Switzerland (-1.0%), the UK (‑9.4%) and the Netherlands (-13.4%) dropped below the 2010 levels.
With Siemens (2 235 applications) and Philips (1 759), two European companies top the list of applicants. Five of the top ten filing companies are European, along with two US (Qualcomm and General Electrics) and two Korean companies (Samsung and LG Group) and one Japanese firm (Mitsubishi). European companies have maintained top positions in the rankings despite the economic crisis; but the list also shows that Asian companies are gaining ground: of the top 50 applicants with the EPO, 18 are headquartered in Asia, four more than in 2010.More data on top applicants