European, German companies pull ahead in new patent office report

Transport patents were particularly prevalent. [Photo: Shutterstock]

The new European Patent Offices’s 2018 report, released on Tuesday (12 March), shows a shift towards European dominance, after Chinese tech giant Huawei dominated the previous year, with a 4.6% increase in European patent applications.

The new 2018 report shows German manufacturer Siemens in first place with 2,493 patents filed, taking the lead for the first time since 2011 and bumping Huawei to second place. Huawei led the EPO in 2017 with 2,398 patent applications.

The report shows that European companies filed almost half of the patent applications, the strongest increase since 2010. Almost 40% of the total growth in patent applications came from 38 EPO member states.

Chinese firm Huawei leads European patent applications

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.

“The growth in patent applications confirms Europe’s role as a powerhouse of global innovation,” said  António Campinos, president of the EPO.

Most European countries saw growth, with only France (-2.8%) and Finland (-3.8%) decreasing. Notable growth was from Switzerland (7.8%), the UK (7.8%) and Sweden (7.1%).

Germany is leading patent applications with Siemens applying for the most patents, according to the EPO report. German companies filed 26,734 patents in 2018, 1,200 more than the previous year with a 4.7% increase.

The increase in German and European companies is tied to new technologies specifically in transport. The transport sector makes up 39% of all patent applications and had an 11.6% increase compared to 2017. At the same time, life sciences saw the strongest growth, while medical technology had the most applications.

“The dominance of European firms in this field shows that the transport industry is a cornerstone of the European economy,” said Campinos.

“Major achievements in transport technology, of which self-driving cars are just one example, underline that innovation is widespread across the sector.”

Europe can lead the way in driverless vehicles, MEPs say

The EU should take steps to accelerate the process of putting self-driving vehicles onto Europe’s roads to avoid being left behind China and the US, MEPs in the European Parliament’s transport committee said during a debate on Wednesday (29 August).

New and notable transport patents are largely in self-driving and electric cars, the latter increasing in Germany by 71% in 2018. Self-driving cars account for a third of all European patent applications since 2011.

“The growth in applications across the majority of leading technology sectors is proof that European innovation can rely on a competitive and effective patent system, said Campinos. “Innovative companies need a robust patent system so they can build strong patent portfolios.”

Europe also offers a good environment for individual and small and medium enterprises. One in five applications at the EPO from Europe was filed by an SME or individual inventor, the report said.

The EPO is not an EU institution and covers 38 countries, including 28 EU member states.

[Edited by Sam Morgan]

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