Number of patent applications in Europe hits all-time high

13 April 2011

Filings at the EPO grew by 11% in 2010

EPO President Benoît Battistelli addresses a press conference in Brussels

The EPO received 235 000 European patent filings in 2010, up 11% from 2009, marking the highest number ever in the Office's 34-year history. Some 39% of these filings originated from the 38 member states of the European Patent Organisation, 26% from the US, 18% from Japan and 5% from each of China and South Korea.

"The figures are clear: growth is back," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "In 2010 there was an increase in demand for patent protection from every region of the world. After a two-year slump, the EU and US are nearly back to their levels of patenting of before the crisis. This combined with a massive rise in patent applications from Asia ─ led by China ─ has made 2010 a record year at the EPO," he said.

Filings by country and region

With 92 500 or 39% of the total patent filings received by the EPO coming from the Organisation's 38 member states (EU 27: 82 800), the share in filings of the Europeans in their own market dropped slightly below the level of the previous year (2009: 41% / EU: 35%). Germany, however, once again clearly topped the table with 14% (33 100 applications; +8.5% over 2009), followed by France with 5% (11 700; +1%), and Switzerland, the UK and the Netherlands with approximately 3% each.

With much smaller volumes, strong growth rates were noted for Belgium (+19%), Austria (+14%), Spain (+8.5%), and also for countries such as Luxembourg (+27%), Poland (+22%),Slovakia (+30%) and Estonia (+23%).

Among non-European countries, the US and Japan were by far the largest countries of origin of European patent applications, with the US accounting for 26% (61 000 filings, +12%) of the total and Japan for 18% (42 000; +10%), whilst China and South Korea each accounted for 5%. There was an impressive growth in applications from South Korea (12 000; +21%) and especially China (13 000; +54%), which overtook Korea in number of applications.

European companies on top

Looking at individual company performance, European firms continue to be the champions of patent protection in their home market, with three European companies, Siemens (2 135 applications), Philips (1 765 applications) and BASF (1 707 applications) topping the list of most prolific applicants in 2010. The strong position of European industry in the EPO league table is underlined by the fact that out of the top 50 applicants, 21 are from Europe, followed by 16 from Asia, 12 from the US and one from Canada.

Medical technology leading field

All of the major technical fields saw a growth in EPO patent application filing in 2010. Medical technology led the pack with 10 500 applications, followed by computer technology (8 300 applications) and electrical machinery, apparatus and energy (8 200). The strongest growth rates were noted for biotechnology (7 400 applications; +42.6%), pharmaceuticals (6 700; +20%) and digital communication (8 000; +11.2%). The areas of telecommunications, transport and computers have not yet reached their 2008 (pre-crisis) levels.

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