After weathering a 3.6% drop two years ago, patent applications bounced back in 2010 with 7.2% growth – resuming a surge that has its roots in the early 1980s, according to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
‘Patent filings worldwide have reached historically unprecedented levels,’ says the group’s 2011 World Intellectual Property Indicators Report. ‘The numbers of filings at the largest patent offices were stable until the 1970s – but then saw substantial growth, first at the patent office of Japan and later that of the United States of America (US). Similarly, growth in filings at the patent office of South Korea started to pick up in the late 1980s. Growth in applications at other offices, such as those in Brazil, China and India, picked up from the mid-1990s onwards. Despite the ongoing economic crisis, global patenting rebounded strongly in 2010.’
WIPO cites three factors as ‘potentially determinant’ to the far higher magnitude of growth in patent filing since 1995: multiple filings for the same invention; busier research and development (R&D) activity; and patenting in new technological areas. Since that year, China has contributed most to overall growth – accounting for 23% – followed by the US (19.5%), South Korea (16.5%) and Japan (12%).
In its report, the swift comeback of patent filing is deemed so remarkable that it is the highlight of a special, extended section on wider trends in patenting. In this section, 2010’s success is placed in an almost 30-year context containing two, distinct ‘surge periods’: one from 1983 to 1990, and another – following a four-year plateau – from 1995 to 2008. While the drop in 2009 caused concern among IP experts that the more dramatic second surge was coming to an end, last year’s growth suggests that it was a blip in overwhelmingly positive progress, characterised by broadening geographical diversity.
Commenting on the report, WIPO director Francis Gurry said: ‘Companies across the globe continue to innovate. This bodes well for the world economy, and can help to create new jobs and generate prosperity once macroeconomic stability is restored.’ However, he warned: ‘At the same time, if economic conditions were to deteriorate sharply in the short term – as happened in 2009 – companies might be forced to curtail or abandon their investments in innovation, stifling an essential source of growth.’
In addition to its positive findings on patents, WIPO revealed that trademark filings have rallied with their largest growth since 2000 – rising by 11.8% in 2010 after dropping by 2.6% the previous year. Again, emerging IP systems were responsible for most of this activity, with China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) accounting for three fifths of the total growth. In all, nearly 3.7m trademark applications were filed around the world in 2010.
To download a full PDF of the report, click here
Global IP body hails resurgence of patent applications as evidence that fall of 2009 was a blip in an upward trend