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European Patent Filings At Another Record High In 2012

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

23 January 2013

In preliminary figures, the European Patent Office (EPO) has disclosed that it received 258,000 patent applications and published 65,700 granted patents in 2012; increases if 5.7% and 5.8%, respectively, over the 244,000 applications and 62,115 granted patents seen in 2011, and reaching new records.

"This new peak in European patent filings for the third year in a row shows that companies from Europe and around the world are continuing to seek protection for their inventions, and that Europe remains an attractive market for new technologies," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "This growth is part of a consistent, long-term trend, and is clear evidence of the confidence of industry in the value of European patents."

As far as the origin of filings is concerned, the trends observed in recent years persisted. With 63% of the filings, a clear majority came from non-European countries (2011: 62%), confirming the global role of the EPO. The top five positions in 2012 were once again held by the United States (24.7%), Japan (19.9%), Germany (13.4%), China (7.3%) and South Korea (5.5%).

Globally, Asian firms continued to fuel the growth in filings: more than half of the increase comes from Japan, China and South Korea combined. After a stabilization in 2011, US companies reached a new record with nearly 63,800 filings, reinforcing their number one position. Among the emerging countries, Brazil also showed a further substantial increase.

"The trend towards the globalization of patent filing strategies underlines the need to improve the quality of first filings in each jurisdiction, before the applications are exported," Battistelli added, "and to develop tools – such as the Common Citation Document or Patent Translate – that help examiners and users to search and analyze the ever-increasing number of patent families."

For Europe, following Germany as number three in the top five, the ranking is stable, with France in 6th place (4.6%), ahead of Switzerland (7th: 3.2%), UK (8th: 2.6%) and the Netherlands (9th: 2.5%). In absolute numbers, all of these EPO countries saw an increase in filings.

However, some percentage increases over the previous year stand out, even if the numbers are low in absolute terms. That was the case with Latvia (+42.4%), Poland (+32.9%), Cyprus (+23.5%), Estonia (+14.8%), Finland (+13.3%) and Portugal (+10.3%).

"The problems besetting economies across the world," Battistelli concluded, "have not so far affected R&D investment strategies and the growing emphasis on the importance of patent activities."

At the same time, it was confirmed that the EPO has put a lot of effort into improving the handling of European patent applications, maintaining high quality requirements without delaying the procedure. Battistelli confirmed that the EPO is "presently carrying out a number of projects to adapt our internal processes, making them more efficient and user-friendly. This, together with the recruitment of further patent examiners, will allow us to absorb the new growth in filings while maintaining our rigorous standards."

TAGS: patents | Netherlands | Portugal | law | intellectual property | China | Estonia | Latvia | Brazil | Cyprus | Finland | France | Germany | Korea, South | Poland | Switzerland | United States | standards | European Union (EU) | Japan | Europe

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