Patent applications to the European Patent Office (EPO) have broken records for the second consecutive year despite ongoing difficulties in the world economy, the organisation has revealed. In 2011, the EPO received a best-ever patent-filings total of 243,000 – a 3% rise on the previous record of 2010, which stood at 237,000. The figure for patents granted by Europe’s leading IP registry was similarly buoyant at 62,115 – a 7% rise on the previous year’s total.
In territorial terms, the driving force of globalisation cited in a recent report from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) also looms behind the EPO’s figures: 62% of all European patent filings in 2011 came from non-European countries – a 1% rise on 2010 – and a shift towards Asia has gathered pace: while the US share of the filings fell from 26% in 2010 to 24%, and Europe’s share was unchanged, China’s share rose from 5% to 7%, and Japan’s from 18% to 19%.
Healthy shares were also recorded for the emerging economies of Brazil (11%), India (13%) and Russia (26%). Within Europe itself, the biggest country for EPO filings was Germany with a 14% share, followed by France at 5% and a three-way split for third position between Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK (3% each).
‘I am pleased to see that R&D investment held up well last year, despite the financial crisis,’ said EPO president Benoît Battistelli. ‘The EPO will continue to play a leading role in the global patent system.’
Turning to plans for 2012 and beyond, the EPO has announced its appointment of an 11-strong Economic and Scientific Advisory Board that will help the organisation to map out the social and economic backdrops behind the patent system. With members drawn from industrial, academic and legal backgrounds, the Board is responsible for steering future EPO research towards a more ‘selective and dedicated’ approach, based upon social awareness and developing the role of IP in emerging economies.
Members include Philips’ chief IP officer Ruud Peters, who spoke to NewLegal Review in May last year about his work in one of the world’s leading technology companies; University of California innovation and patenting expert Professor Bronwyn Hall; and University College London’s Rt Hon Professor Sir Robin Jacob, who served as Lord Justice and IP specialist at the Court of Appeal for England and Wales between 2003 and 2011.
Commenting on the establishment of the Board, Battistelli said: ‘Beyond its core businesses of search, examination and grant of patents, the EPO has a strong interest in the broader economic and social ramifications of the patent system, especially its impact on innovation and economic growth. The board will advise the office on what studies to conduct, and offer guidance on their evaluation and implementation.’
Download a full country-by-country league table of 2011 EPO patent applications here
Strong figures on European patent filing defy global economic conditions, as EPO creates team to fine tune its policies for working with emerging markets