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WIPO Report Reveals Highest Patent Growth In North East Asia

by Mary Swire, for, Hong Kong

13 August 2007

The 2007 edition of the World Intellectual Property Organization Patent Report, published last week, has shown that worldwide filings of patent applications have grown at an average annual rate of 4.7%, with the highest growth rates experienced in North East Asian countries, particularly the Republic of Korea (ROK) and China.

The report is based on 2005 figures, the last year for which complete worldwide statistics are available. It showed that patents granted worldwide have increased at an average annual rate of 3.6%, with some 600,000 patents granted in 2005 alone. By the end of 2005, approximately 5.6 million patents were in force worldwide.

The largest recipients of patent filings were the patent offices of Japan, the United States of America (USA), China, the ROK and the European Patent Office (EPO). These five offices account for 77% of all patents filed in 2005, (a 2% increase over 2004), representing 74% of all patents granted. With an increase of almost 33% over 2004, the patent office of China became the third-place recipient of patent filings in 2005.

According to WIPO, use of the international patent system has increased markedly in recent years and while it remains highly concentrated - 49% of the estimated 5.6 million patents in force are owned by applicants from Japan and the USA - there is evidence of increasing use of the system by newly industrializing nations.

“We have witnessed a significant increase in the use of the patent system internationally in recent years,” observed Dr Kamil Idris, WIPO Director General.

He continued:

“This is clearly one indicator of the level of inventiveness and innovation that is occurring around the world and signals those areas in which technological development is most pronounced. While the use of the system remains highly concentrated, we are seeing an historic evolution in the geography of innovation. With increased patenting activity in newly industrializing and emerging countries, we expect the pattern of ownership of patent rights worldwide will become more diversified over the coming years.”

Dr Idris concluded:

“Information contained in patents and better analysis of data relating to patents is extremely valuable and for these reasons WIPO has enhanced its work relating to patent statistics. The current report is the most comprehensive yet, including an analysis of patenting activity by field of technology as well as improved statistical data on patent processing and patent life cycles.”

Key findings of the 2007 report were that:

  • The North East Asian region has significantly increased its share of worldwide patenting, both as a source of patent applications and as a target of non-resident patent applications from outside the region. Patent filings by residents doubled in the ROK and increased by more than eight fold in China between 1995 and 2005. The patent office of China has the highest growth rate for resident (+42.1%) and non-resident (+23.6%) filings.
  • The report showed an increase in the use of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), a multilateral pact administered by WIPO which provides a simplified system for international patent filing. The number of PCT international applications increased by 7.9% from 2005 to 2006 to reach 147,500. At present, 137 countries have signed up to the PCT.
  • In its analysis of patent trends around the world, the report revealed an increase in filings in the electricity and electronics sectors. Patent applications filed in these areas represented 32% of worldwide patent filings between 2000 and 2004. Patent filings in this field of technology are concentrated in the patent offices of Japan and the United States of America followed by the Republic of Korea, the EPO and China. The three fastest growing technical fields from 2000 to 2004 were medical technology (+32.2%), audio-visual technology (+28.3%) and information technology (+27.7%).
  • The report also examined the percentage and composition of foreign inventors in PCT international applications. It showed that companies of Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden have an above average number of foreign inventors and that researchers from Belgium, Austria, Great Britain, Canada, Israel and India constituted the largest percentage of inventors working in foreign companies.

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