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3.3 million patent applications were filed in 2018


9th Mar 2020

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has recently issued a report summarising IP facts and figures for 2018, which is the latest available year of complete statistics. This report is a summary of an earlier, more comprehensive report.

For this blog, we’ve picked out some interesting statistics from the data on patents.

Record numbers of patent applications are being filed

2018 saw the number of new patent applications being filed in a calendar year exceed 3.3 million for the first time. This is an increase of 5.2% over 2017 and it is the ninth straight annual increase.

Worldwide filings for patents in 2018

WIPO (2019). WIPO IP Facts and Figures 2019. Geneva: World Intellectual Property Organization.

Activity in China continues to push patent application filing statistics to new heights. China’s IP office received 1.54 million patent applications in 2018. This is an increase of 11.6% from 2017 and it corresponds to 46.4% of the global total number of applications filed. China’s IP office also issued the largest number of patents in 2018 with 432,147 patents issued.

Patent applications at the top 10 offices in 2018

WIPO (2019). World Intellectual Property Indicators 2019. Geneva: World Intellectual Property Organization.

However, Chinese applicants appear to be mostly concerned with their own national patent system. Only 9.6% of Chinese patent applications filed in 2018 were filed by non-residents, compared to around a 50% share for non-residents filing at the US Patent and Trademark Office and the European Patent Office. Also, only 4.5% of all patent applications originating from China were filed abroad.

Over 14 million patents are in force worldwide

The number of patents in force worldwide in 2018 increased by 6.7% to a record 14 million. The US has the largest number of patents in force (3.1 million) followed by China (2.4 million) and Japan (2.1 million). It is now more important than ever to ensure, before launching a new product, that you will not infringe a third party’s IP rights.

Trend in patents in force worldwide, 2008-2018

WIPO (2019). World Intellectual Property Indicators 2019. Geneva: World Intellectual Property Organization.

Over 50% of US patents are held by non-residents. This compares with non-residents owning 29.8% of Chinese patents and 24.9% of South Korean patents. Although the number of Chinese patent applications being filed is outpacing the number of US applications being filed, the US clearly remains a key territory for foreign patentees.

Patents in force at the top 20 offices, 2018

WIPO (2019). World Intellectual Property Indicators 2019. Geneva: World Intellectual Property Organization.

Closer to home, the data also shows that just 7.9% of UK patents that are in force belong to UK residents.

Patent office backlogs are reducing in some territories

As patent applications are being filed in ever increasing numbers, patent offices across the world have built up substantial backlogs of pending applications. In total, 5.7 million patent applications remain pending worldwide.

Potentially pending applications at the top 20 offices, 2018

WIPO (2019). World Intellectual Property Indicators 2019. Geneva: World Intellectual Property Organization.

The USPTO is the worst offender, with the highest backlog with 1.1 million pending applications. The USPTO is followed by China (970,000 pending applications), Japan (920,000 pending applications) and the EPO (620,000 pending applications). However, it is encouraging to see that these four offices all managed to reduce their backlogs in 2018. China’s IP office reported an enormous 12.4% decrease, despite seeing another double-digit percentage increase in the number of applications being filed.

Was 2018 the year of the utility model?

2018 saw a massive increase of 21.8% in the number of utility model application being filed. A utility model, sometimes referred to as an “innovation patent”, is a form of IP protection that is similar to a patent but has less stringent patentability requirements and consequently a shorter term of protection. It is also only available in certain countries.

Worldwide filings for utility models in 2018

WIPO (2019). WIPO IP Facts and Figures 2019. Geneva: World Intellectual Property Organization.

A record 2.15 million utility model applications were filed in 2018. A closer look at the data shows that the vast majority of utility model applications (96.6%) were received by China’s IP office, and that the overwhelming majority of these applications (99.6%) were filed by residents of China.

Utility model applications for the top 20 offices, 2018

WIPO (2019). World Intellectual Property Indicators 2019. Geneva: World Intellectual Property Organization.

Indeed, the use of utility model applications in China has increased enormously over the past ten years, from 225,586 utility model applications received by China’s IP office in 2008, to 2.07 million utility model applications received in 2018.

The data in this report issued by WIPO tells us that IP protection is becoming increasingly important to companies worldwide. If you would like to discuss your intellectual property strategy, or for more information about intellectual property protection, please contact us.

This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.

Author
Ian Whitfield
Associate
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Would you like to know more? You can talk to Ian Whitfield who will be able to help. Call +44 (0)20 7242 0901

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