For the first time in the history of the European Patent Office, a Chinese company came on top in terms of patent applications in 2017, a year that saw a new record in the number of requests for intellectual property protection in Europe.
“In terms of patents, 2017 has been a positive year for Europe,” said the president of the EPO, Benoît Battistelli. The Office released the latest results on Wednesday (7 March).
The number of applications for the European patent grew 3.9% to 165.590 submissions, a record figure in the history of the EPO.
Most of the demands came from the US (26%), followed by Germany (15%), Japan (13%), France (6%) and China (5%), which made it to the top five thanks to a new sharp increase in its patent requests (16.6%).
Huawei, a Chinese company, led the ranking of patent submissions, confirming a stronger push from China.
Huawei (2,398 applications), Siemens (2,220), LG (2,056) and Samsung (2,016) were the companies that submitted the most requests for intellectual protection.
But the Chinese company’s growth pace slowed compared to the previous year to 0.3%, while the German conglomerate registered an increase of 18.7% over 2016.
Most European countries submitted a larger number of patent applications in the EPO in 2017. Among the countries with the highest volume, applications increased in France (+0.5%), Germany (+1.9%), the United Kingdom (+2.4%) and the Netherlands (+2.7%).
Norway (-0.6%), Belgium (-1.9%), and Portugal (-5.7%) were the European countries whose number of patent applications decreased in 2017.
In terms of patent applications per million inhabitants, Switzerland came on top (884), followed by the Netherlands (412) and Denmark (377).
Most of the applications came from the sectors of medical technology, digital communication and computer technology.
“The growing demand for European patents confirms the attractiveness of Europe as a market for leading technologies,” Battistelli commented.
Over the past years, the Munich-based institution has focused on improving its efficiency in order to process the patent demands. The certificates issued by the 7,000-employee organisation are seen as more solid compared to intellectual property certificates given by its peers in other regions.
“The EPO has responded effectively to this constant demand with efficiency measures that have increased production, productivity and meeting deadlines. At the same time, we have optimised the quality of our products and services,” Battistelli explained.
The EPO is not an EU entity and covers 38 countries.
The EU member states have set up a new patent to cover all the bloc, the unitary patent. But the courts that should enforce these new patents are not yet active as the ratification process has not been concluded.