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OECD Notes Fall In Patent Quality

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

28 September 2011

The quality of patent filings has fallen dramatically over the past two decades as patent offices are overburdened with companies' efforts to protect even minor improvements in products and services, according to the findings of a new report from the Organization for Economic and Cooperation Development (OECD), which also considers which countries are best at facilitating innovative enterprise.

The Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2011 finds that patent quality has declined by an average of around 20% between the 1990s and 2000s, a pattern seen in nearly all countries studied.

Studying patent quality in different sectors has also allowed the OECD to assess which countries are doing best in the area of research and development and innovation. The United Kingdom, for example, produces semiconductor and environmental technology patents that are above average in quality. Korea has a competitive advantage in ICT-related innovations and Germany is strong at innovating in solar energy.

Patents from inventors in the United States, Germany and Japan are the most highly cited, which suggests that true innovations are being used by many firms in their products to generate further innovations, according to the report. However, while these countries produced about 70% of the top 1% of highly-cited patents between 1996 and 2000, their share fell 60% five years later.

In recent years, the Nordic countries, China, India and Korea have seen their share increase of highly-cited patents. The European Union is leading in clean energy technologies, representing nearly 40% of all filings by the late 2000s, followed by the US and Japan. In this area, China now ranks 8th worldwide.

The OECD report also ranks research by universities worldwide. Overall, 40 of the top 50 research institutions are located in the United States, with the rest in Europe. But a more diverse picture emerges when looking at subject areas, according to the report.

In social sciences, for example, the UK leads with 16 of the top 50 institutions and there is growing evidence that universities in Asia are emerging as leading research institutions; China has six in the top 50 in pharmacology, toxicology and pharmaceutics. Meanwhile, Hong Kong University is among the best in computer science, engineering and chemistry.

The US leads the world in research and development (R&D), with around USD400bn of spending on R&D in 2009. China is today second, with over one third of that total, followed by Japan. The European Union as a whole spent about USD300bn in 2009.

TAGS: Russia | environment | business | patents | India | energy | law | intellectual property | China | United Kingdom | manufacturing | Brazil | Germany | Hong Kong | United States | European Union (EU) | Japan | services | research and development | Europe

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