Patent filings at the European Patent Office EPO grew by 2.8% last year and
hit another all-time high.
Samsung of Korea was the top patent filer while Switzerland had the highest
applications per million inhabitants. Ireland's filings rose but from a low base
given the number of leading foreign companies that operate in the country.
In 2013, the EPO received 266,000 patent filings, compared to 258,000 in
2012. The EPO granted 66,700 European patents, which was 1.6% more than in 2012
65,600 and the highest number ever.
"Demand for patent protection in Europe is up for the fourth consecutive year,"
said Benoît Battistelli, EPO president. "This is proof that companies from around
the world continue to see Europe more and more as a premier hub for innovation.
The strong position of European companies in patent-intense technologies also
underlines the central role these industry sectors play in generating employment
and growth in the EU economy."
Annual report 2013
Filings by country and region
With 35% of all filings at the EPO, the 38 EPO member states maintained their
share of total filings in 2013. Once
again nearly two-thirds of patent filings at the EPO last year came from outside
Europe. The most active countries were the US 24% of the total, Japan 20%, Germany 12%, China 8%, South Korea 6%, France 5%, Switzerland and
the Netherlands both 3%, and the UK and Sweden both 2%
Europe: most applications per million inhabitants
The technological strength of the leading European countries is also reflected
in the figures for European applications per million inhabitants: With 832
applications Switzerland tops the list, ahead of Sweden 402, Finland 360,
Denmark and the Netherlands both 347. A comparison by economic region sees
Japan with 177 applications clearly ahead of South Korea and the EU-28 average both 129, the US 107 and China 3. Ireland
had a 13th rank in Europe with 115 applications.
Europe stable, with regional differences
European industry maintained its patenting activities at the same level as in
the previous year, with marked regional differences, however. Especially the
Netherlands +17.2%, Denmark +8.1%, Sweden +7.5% but also member states
with lower filing levels, such as Portugal +34.5%, Turkey +31.9%, the Czech
Republic +26.5% and Ireland +9.4%, showed marked upward trends over 2012,
while filings from France +1.1%, Finland +0.6% and Austria +0.2% grew
moderately. Other countries saw a drop in patent filings, in particular Belgium -7.4%, Germany -5.4%, the UK -3%, Italy -2.7%, Switzerland -2% and
US with stable increase, Asian countries drivers of growth
Filings from the US +2.8% and Japan +1.2% increased again from high levels.
However, China +16.2% and South Korea +14% were once more the strongest
contributors to growth: In total, filings from Asia accounted for nearly
three-quarters of the increase at the EPO in 2013. This was particularly due to
the dominance of Asian firms in the Computers, Electronics and Digital
Five European companies in top ten, Samsung in the lead
This is also reflected in the company ranking, where Samsung was again the top
applicant 2,833 applications. With five companies in the top ten, however,
European firms stood their ground in their home market, led by Siemens 2nd,
Philips 3rd, BASF 5th, Robert Bosch 6th and Ericsson 10th.
An analysis of a representative sample of services requested from the EPO in
2013 shows that the EPO is also an important service provider for smaller
entities: While 65.5% of the applicants were large companies, 29% were SMEs and
individual inventors, and 5.5% universities and public research institutes.
Europe dominant in automotive sector, environmental technologies and medical
In nine of the ten top technical fields, Europeans filed the greatest numbers of
applications with the EPO. This underlines Europe's balanced and wide-ranging
patent portfolio. European companies took over the top spot from US applicants
in the field of Medical technology European firms 41%, US 39%, which was again
the field with the most applications in 2013. Europeans were also particularly
strong in the fields of Transport especially the automotive and aeronautic
sectors with 60% of the total applications, Engines, pumps and turbines including clean energy technologies, with 56% of the total, and Measurement,
Computers was the only technology not dominated by Europe with US holding the
sway at 34%, EPC 31%. Japan was strong in Electrical machinery 25% and
Transport 22%; China led in Digital communication 15%.
In terms of growth, filings were up in Computer technology +5%, Transport +5% and Electrical machinery +4%, while Pharmaceuticals -14%, Engines,
pumps, turbines -8%, Organic fine chemistry -7%, Digital communication -7%, and Biotechnology -4% decreased.
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