World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO Patent Report: Statistics on Worldwide Patent Activity (2007 Edition)

Readers are welcome to use the statistics provided in the WIPO Patent Report, but are requested to cite WIPO as the source in the following manner: "Source: the WIPO Patent Report, 2007 Edition". For questions about the report, please contact ipstats.mail@wipo.int.

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Foreword

Preface

A   Highlights

B   Worldwide Patent Filings

B.1 Worldwide Patent Filings by Year of Filing
B.2 Evolution of Worldwide Patent Filings

B.3 Top 20 Offices of Filing


C   Patent Filings by Residents and by Non-Residents

C.1 Resident Filings by Office
C.2 Non-Resident Filings by Office

C.3 Non-Resident Filings by Country of Origin

C.4 Non-Resident Filings as a Percentage of Total Filings by Office

C.5 Multiple Patent Applications


D   Indicators of Patent Intensity

D.1 Resident Filings per Million Population
D.2 Resident Filings per Gross Domestic Product

D.3 Resident Filings per Research & Development Expenditures by year

D.4 Resident Filings per Research & Development Expenditures by Country of Origin


E   Fields of Technology

E.1 Technical Fields by Year of Filing
E.2 Technical Fields by Office


F   The International Route: the Patent Cooperation Treaty

F.1 PCT International Applications by Year of Filing
F.2 PCT International Applications by Country of Origin

F.3 Non-Resident Direct Filings and PCT National Phase Entries by Year of Filing

F.4 Non-Resident Direct Filings and PCT National Phase Entries by Office

F.5 PCT International Applications published by Technical Field

F.6 Residence of Inventors compared with Residence of Applicants within PCT International Filings


G   Patent Filing in the European Region

G.1 Patent Filings in the European Region by Year of Filing
G.2 Resident Filings at EPC Member States by Office

G.3 European Intra-Regional Filings by Office

G.4 European Extra-Regional Filings by Office


H   Patent Filing in the North East Asian Region

H.1 Resident Filings in North East Asia by Year of Filing
H.2 Non-Resident Filings in North East Asia by Year of Filing


I   Processing of Patent Applications

I.   Pending Applications by Office


J   Patents Granted

J.1 Patents Granted Worldwide by Year of Grants
J.2 Patents Granted by Office

J.3 Patents Granted by Country of Origin

J.4 Regional Patents Granted by Designated State


K   Patents In Force

K.1 Patents in Force by Office
K.2 Patents in Force by Country of Origin

K.3 Age Profile of Patents in Force


L   Statistical Tables
M   Glossary
N   WIPO Patent Resources

 


 

Foreword

Good quality empirical information is key to understanding current developments in the international patent system. This 2007 edition of the WIPO Patent Report aims to make a contribution to that understanding by providing a range of statistics on patent activity for as many countries as possible.

Since the 2006 Edition of this report, WIPO has spent considerable time improving the quality of statistics in the WIPO Statistics Database, in particular to improve the quality of historical statistics. Sections have also been added to show activity by fields of technology, and improvements have been made to statistics on patent processing and patent life cycles.

Trends in patent activity are a reflection of the transition currently occurring in worldwide industrial activity. Very high growth rates in the use of the patent system can be observed in North East Asian countries, particularly the Republic of Korea and China. This growth is from patent filings by applicants from those countries and, at the same time, from foreign patent applicants, reflecting the increasing integration of those countries into worldwide industrial activity. It is clear that this is a process that is ongoing. While patent filings by residents of North East Asian countries have been growing at high rates for more than ten years, filings abroad by residents of those countries have only started to appear in significant numbers in recent years. This can be seen in filings of PCT international applications, where filings from the Republic of Korea and China have grown significantly since 2002, to the point where China, Japan and the Republic of Korea are now all within the top ten countries of origin of PCT international applications.

Although much attention is given to the high growth rates in patenting in the North East Asian region, other industrializing countries and countries in transition are also showing steady increases in their use of the patent system. Patent applicants from countries such as Brazil, India, Israel and South Africa are all increasing their patent filings abroad - a sign of the increasing internationalization and diversity of the patent system.

However, the increase in patent filings from newly industrialized countries does not yet translate into ownership of patent rights internationally by applicants from those countries. Of the approximately 5.6 million patents in force in 2005, 49% were owned by applicants from two established industrialized countries - Japan and the United States of America. The major European countries are also strongly represented in ownership of patent rights. As the increase in patent filings flows through the system into patent grants over the coming years, we can expect to see this proportion change and the ownership of patent rights worldwide become more diversified.

These changes do not come without a cost. The workload at certain patent offices has increased faster than the capacity to examine patent applications. The United States of America had more than 900,000 patents pending in 2005. The Japanese Patent Office also had more than 800,000 patents pending in 2005, although it must be noted that this is largely due to changes in the time limit for request for examination, which has created a temporary increase in the examination workload in Japan.

Among the questions raised by this increase in workload is the extent of duplication of effort within the system. Worldwide, 38% of patent applications are by non-resident applicants. These applications are usually preceded by prior applications in the country of residence of the applicant and, often, by parallel applications in other countries. Each of these applications may be subject to a separate search and examination in each patent office.

This 2007 Edition of the WIPO Patent Report contains much more information on trends in patent filings and granting, more detailed analyses of the European and PCT procedures, and more information on patent life cycles. The report is supported by detailed datasets which are available from the WIPO web site. We trust that these resources will be of value to those wishing to understand the evolving dynamics of the international patent system.

Preface

Statistical Sources

The statistics in this report are based on information supplied to WIPO by patent offices in annual surveys. Each year, WIPO requests statistics from national patent offices, including the numbers of patents filed, granted and in force, broken down by country of origin, date and a number of other criteria. The statistics are often provided to WIPO six months or more after the end of the year concerned and must then be processed by WIPO and formatted for publication. This means that statistics for 2005 are published on the Internet at the end of 2006 and in the present report in 2007.

Other sources of statistics in this report are the PATSTAT database created by the EPO from its documentation databases (used in this report for patent family statistics) and economic indicators from the World Bank and UNESCO.

Where data are missing for a given office or period of time and when it is possible, WIPO estimates the missing data from the available data. The estimates of individual data items are not published, but they are included in aggregate totals.

The statistics in this report identify patent activity by residents and by non-residents separately. Resident patent applications are those for which the first-named applicant or assignee is a resident of the State or region concerned. Non-resident patent applications are from applicants outside the relevant State or region. In the case of regional offices such as the European Patent Office, a resident is an applicant from any of the member States of the regional patent convention. Some offices (notably the United States of America) use the residence of the inventor rather than that of the applicant to classify resident and non-resident filings. Unless otherwise stated, statistics on the number of resident and non-resident patent applications include those filed via the PCT system as PCT national/regional phase entries.

Patent Applications as Indicators of Inventive Activity

Studies have shown that around 80% of resident patent applications filed are for new inventions (first filings having no priority claims). Therefore, although resident filings overestimate the number of new inventions, they are a reliable indicator of underlying inventive activity. Depending on commercial considerations, applicants later decide whether or not to file a patent application for the same invention in foreign countries. Patent filings by non-residents thus reflect the internationalization of technology and markets.

Some of the major considerations relating to the use of patent indicators as a means of measuring inventive activity are:

  • Not all inventions are patented. Companies may choose alternative methods of intellectual property protection, such as trade secrecy or marketing techniques. The choice may vary according to the technology in question.
  • The number of patent applications can vary between different countries due to the differences in patent systems (see below).
  • Since an invention may be the subject of several patent applications in the country of origin and in foreign countries, there can be multiple counting of the same invention.
  • The place and time of filing of a patent application may not correspond to the place and time of the inventive activity. Research and development may be conducted in one country and a patent filed in a different country. The patent filing may also take place some time after the research and development activity.

Differences in National Patent Systems

There are notable differences in the numbers of resident patent applications in each office relative to the size of the country and in the proportion of resident and non-resident patent filings in different offices. To some degree, the differences reflect the different stages of industrial development in different countries - developed countries tend to have more resident patent applications than developing countries. Differences in the proportion of non-resident applications are partly accounted for by differences in international trade and investment patterns.

The legal and administrative differences between national or regional patent systems also have a significant impact on the number of patents filed. Although there is a tendency towards convergence in the different national and regional systems due to international treaties and agreements, there is still flexibility to adjust national systems to national requirements.

To aid the interpretation of patent statistics, WIPO has published information on the characteristics of different national patent systems (WIPO Index of Patent Systems, available at: http://www.wipo.int/ipstats/en/resources/patent_systems.html). The following characteristics are notable:

  • Alternatives to standard patent applications, such as provisional applications, utility models or design patents, may result in fewer standard patent applications being filed than would otherwise be the case.
  • Although requirements are becoming more harmonized, differences in rules regarding patent claims mean that the same invention may be drafted as a single patent application in one country and as two or more patent applications in another country.
  • In some cases, a patent application is automatically the subject of search and/or examination, while in other cases search and examination are requested separately and several years after the patent application filing. This means that an applicant can file a patent application less expensively at some offices and decide later whether or not to commit to the additional cost of search and examination and eventual granting. Finally, there are differences in patentable subject matter in different countries. For example, business methods are patentable in some countries, but not in others.

Improvements in patent indicators are the subject of ongoing studies by WIPO and other organizations working in the field of patent statistics.

A  Highlights

Growth in Patent Activity. Worldwide filings of patent applications have grown at an average annual rate of 4.7% since 1995 to a total of more than 1.6 million in 2005. The growth rate is comparable to the overall increase in economic activity over the same period. Patents granted worldwide have increased at an average annual rate of 3.6% to about 600,000 in 2005. At the end of 2005, there were approximately 5.6 million patents in force worldwide.

Increasing Internationalization. The use of the patent system internationally has increased markedly in recent years. This can be seen in the growth rate of total patent filings by non-residents (+7.6% over 2004) and in the increase in non-resident patent filings in countries such as China, India, Mexico, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation. However, the use of the patent system remains highly concentrated with only five patent offices (China, Japan, the European Patent Office, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America) accounting for 77% of all patents filed and 74% of all patents granted.

Increased use of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The PCT, which provides a simplified system for international patent filing, has become the major route for international patent filing. The number of PCT international applications increased by 7.9% from 2005 to 2006 to reach 147,500. PCT national phase entries account for 48% of worldwide non-resident patent filings.

Processing of Patent Applications. Increasing demand has led to increases in workload in some patent offices, although the number of patent applications pending examination differs significantly from one office to another. The United States of America had more than 900,000 pending applications in 2005, with Japan having the next largest number of pending applications (according to available data).

Increasing Patent Filings in the Technical Field of Electricity and Electronics. Patent applications filed in the field of electricity and electronics represented 35% of worldwide patent filings between 2000 and 2005. Patent filings in this technology field are concentrated in the patent offices of Japan and the United States of America followed by the Republic of Korea, the European Patent Office and China.

B Worldwide Patent Filings

This section presents an overview of the trends in worldwide patent filings. The total number of patent applications filed around the world has increased steadily, particularly since 1995. There has been a continuous increase in the number of filings by patent applicants in their country of residence, but most of the increase in total patent filings is accounted for by non-resident patent filings.

The distribution of patent filings worldwide is very uneven. A small number of countries account for the majority of patent filings both by residents and non-residents. Patent offices of Japan and the United States of America receive the largest amount of patent applications followed by North East Asian emerging States, namely China and the Republic of Korea and large industrialized European States. The distribution of patent filings by office has changed in recent years, particularly as China and the Republic of Korea are becoming major industrial economies and their use of the patent system is expanding.

B.1 Worldwide Patent Filings by Year of Filing

The chart below shows the number of patent applications filed by residents and non-residents worldwide by year of filing.

Patent Applications Filed

  • In 2005, about 1,660,000 patent applications were filed worldwide, which is an increase of 7% over 2004.
  • The average annual rate of increase in total patent filings since 1995 is 4.7%.
  • Patent filings by residents increased at an average annual rate of 6.6% and by non-residents at 7.6%.

B.2 Evolution of Worldwide Patent Filings

The chart shows the number of patent applications filed at nine patent offices from 1883 (date of the signature of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property) to 2005.

Number of patent applications filed at 9 patent offices from 1883

  • Until 1960, growth in worldwide patent activities was very modest with an average annual growth rate of 1.99% from 1883 to 1959. During this period, patenting activity was concentrated in four countries - the United States of America, Germany, the United Kingdom and France.
  • From 1960, usage of the patent system accelerated due to the emergence of users from new States or regions. Filings of patent applications in Japan and inventor's certificates in the Soviet Union increased noticeably during this period.
  • Since 1980, the patent offices of the United States of America followed by the European Patent Office, the Republic of Korea and China have all experienced significant growth rates in filings. At the nine offices shown above, the average annual growth rate from 1960 to 2005 was 3.35%.
  • Note that the European Patent Convention entered into force in 1977. From that date, filings at European national offices (Germany, France and United Kingdom in the chart above) declined because, while some applicants continued to use the national route, many chose the newly available regional route. More information on patent filings in the European region is given in Section G of this report.

B.3 Top 20 Offices of Filing

The chart shows the top 20 patent offices according to the total number of patent filings in 2005.

Top 20 Offices of Filing

  • The patent offices of Japan and the United States of America are the largest recipients of patent filings followed by China, the Republic of Korea and the European Patent Office.
  • These five patent offices account for 77% of all patents filed in 2005, which represents an increase of 2% over 2004 (75%).
  • With an increase of almost 33% over 2004, the patent office of China became the third largest recipient of patent filings (up one place) in 2005.

C Patent Filings by Residents and by Non-Residents

From 2004 to 2005, there was steady growth in patent filings by applicants in their country of residence (+6.6%), but patent filings by non-residents have grown at a faster rate (+7.6%). During the same period, the most notable increases can be seen at patent offices of emerging States. The patent office of China has the highest growth rate for resident (+42.1%) and non-resident (+23.6%) filings.

C.1 Resident Filings by Office

The chart shows the number of resident patent applications filed at the top 15 patent offices in 2004 and 2005.

Number of resident patent applications filed at the top 15 patent offices in 2004 and 2005

  • Resident patent filings increased by 6.6% from 2004 to 2005.
  • The number of patent applications filed by residents at the Japan Patent Office remained almost the same as in 2004, whereas the number of resident filings in the next 4 offices increased at rates between 42% in China and 4% at the European Patent Office.

C.2 Non-Resident Filings by Office

The chart shows the number of non-resident patent applications filed at the top 15 patent offices in 2004 and 2005.

Number of non-resident patent applications filed at the top 15 patent offices in 2004 and 2005

  • There was an increase in non-resident patenting of 7.6% from 2004 to 2005.

C.3 Non-Resident Filings by Country of Origin

The chart shows the country of residence of non-resident patent filings worldwide.

  • Patent applicants from the United States of America, Japan and Germany are the largest filers of patent applications in other countries. The United States of America and Japan each account for 23% of non-resident patent filings worldwide, while Germany accounts for 11%. Together, these three countries of origin account for 57% of worldwide patent filings by non-residents.
  • Patent applicants from the Republic of Korea, China and India are all rapidly increasing the numbers of patent applications that they are filing abroad and, thus, extending the coverage of the protection of inventions originating in those countries. These three countries of origin had the highest increase in non-resident filings over 2004: +27.3% for the Republic of Korea, +27.9% for China and +23.6% for India.
  • The increase over 2004 was also notable for Israel (+11.1%), New Zealand (+13.3%) and South Africa (+10.6).
  • Additional data received by WIPO since the previous edition corrected 2004 statistics. Comparisons between countries may not be accurate due to the high number of unknown origins.

C.4 Non-Resident Filings as a Percentage of Total Filings by Office

The chart shows non-resident patent filings as a percentage of total filings by office in 2005. This shows the countries which have the highest proportions of foreign patent applications.

Non-resident patent filings as a % of total filings by office in 2005

  • Note that most European national offices have a below average percentage of non-resident application filings since many applicants from outside the European region file at the European Patent Office rather than at the European national offices.

C.5 Multiple Patent Applications

The chart below indicates the tendency to file multiple patent applications for the same invention, organised by the office of first filing. This is an indicator of the propensity for patent applicants from certain countries to file internationally.

It shows the percentage of patent families that are first filed in each office, which are followed by subsequent patent applications for the same invention. A patent family is a set of patents (members) filed in multiple countries to protect the same invention. The period covered is 2000 to 2005.

Multiple patent applications for the same invention

  • Over 80% of patent families first filed in Sweden (92%) and Austria (87%) are followed by one or more subsequent patent applications for the same invention.

D Indicators of Patent Intensity

This section presents a small number of indicators that compare patent filings with other indicators, namely population, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and research and development (R&D) expenditures. This analysis allows for more meaningful cross-country comparisons by weighting the number of patents by different measures of country size and economic activity.

As previously noted, differences in the use of the patent system across countries will account for some of the differences in the numbers of patent filings. Therefore, differences in patent filings per population, GDP or research and development expenditures do not necessarily mean that one country is more inventive than another or more efficient in its allocation of resources.

Economic indicators used in this report

This report uses three economic indicators from the World Bank's World Development Indicators series. They are:

  • Population - the total resident population of each country.
  • GDP - the gross domestic product of each country. To make cross-country comparisons more meaningful, we use GDP in constant year 2000 US dollars adjusted for purchasing power parity. The constant year 2000 figure corrects for the effect of inflation on measures of GDP. The purchasing power parity adjustment takes into consideration the different price levels in different countries that may not be reflected in simple exchange rate differences.
  • Research and Development - total gross spending on research and development (i.e. not separated into government or business spending) in constant year 2000 US dollars at purchasing power parity (source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics). In the case of research and development, a one year lag is introduced - i.e. patent filings in 2005 are compared with R&D spending in 2004. Note that when the 2004 R&D figure was not available for a specific country, the latest available figure has been used.

The indicators in this section are not shown for all countries. Where a country is omitted from one of the charts in this section, this is either because the statistics are not available or because the number of patents is very low and the indicators are therefore not meaningful.

 

D.1 Resident Filings per Million Population

The chart shows the number of resident patent applications per million inhabitants.

Number of resident patent applications per million inhabitants

  • Japan and the Republic of Korea have the highest rate of resident patent applications per capita at 2,876 and 2,530 patent applications per million inhabitants.

D.2 Resident Filings per Gross Domestic Product

The chart shows the number of resident patent applications filed per billion dollars of GDP, where GDP is measured in constant year 2000 US dollars at purchasing power parity.

Number of resident patent applications filed per billion dollars of GDP

  • The Republic of Korea and Japan have the highest rates of resident patent applications per GDP.

D.3 Resident Filings per Research & Development Expenditures by year

The chart shows the number of resident patent applications filed per million dollars of research and development (R&D) expenditures measured in constant year 2000 US dollars at purchasing power parity (PPP).

Number of resident patent applications filed per million dollars of R&D

  • Globally, the number of patent applications by residents per million dollars of research and development expenditures has changed very little since year 2000.

D.4 Resident Filings per Research & Development Expenditures by Country of Origin

The chart shows the number of resident patent applications filed per million dollars of research and development (R&D) expenditures measured in constant year 2000 US dollars at purchasing power parity (PPP).

Number of resident patent applications filed per million dollars of R&D

  • The differences in patent filings between countries are less pronounced when weighted by research and development expenditures.

E Fields of Technology

Patent applications are classified according to the International Patent Classification (IPC), which can be aggregated into 30 fields1. The most active technology fields are electricity and electronics and the highest rates of activity in these fields are in the patent offices of the United States of America and Japan.

As a PCT international application can be counted in more than one technical field, the total of applications by technical field differs from the total of applications filed.

E.1 Technical Fields by Year of Filing

The table below shows the technical fields of patent applications filed from 2000 to 2004 (data for 2004 adjusted for missing values).

Technical fields of patent applications filed from 2000 to 2004

  • Patent applications filed in the field of electricity and electronics represent 32% of the total.
  • 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%).

E.2 Technical Fields by Office

The charts show the distribution of patent applications filed for a selection of technical fields by patent office over the years from 2000 to 20042.

Technical Fields by Office
Technical Fields by Office

  • The patent offices of Japan and the United States of America have high rates of activity in these selected fields.
  • The distribution of patent filings in Chemical Engineering is noticeably different from the other technical fields.

F The International Route: the Patent Cooperation Treaty

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) system for international patent filing has been in place since 1978 and use of the system has increased rapidly since then. During the 1990s, several changes resulted in the maturing of the PCT system as a major route for international patent filing.

  • The number of member States of the PCT increased from 105 in January 2000 to 136 in December 2006.
  • The number of PCT international applications increased from 93,237 in 2000 to 147,500 in 2006, reflecting an average annual increase of 7.9%.
  • The average annual increase of worldwide PCT national phase entries was 9.3% from 2000 to 2005.

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)

The PCT provides an international system for filing patent applications. The PCT procedure consists of an international phase followed by a national or regional phase.

In the international phase, an applicant files a PCT international application and designates the States for which it wishes to eventually seek patent protection. Since 2004, all eligible States are automatically designated in every PCT international application. Prior to 2004, more than 80% of PCT applications would already designate all possible States at the time of international filing. In the international phase, the PCT application is searched and published and, optionally, an international preliminary examination is conducted.

In the national (or regional) phase, the applicant requests national processing of the PCT international application, pays additional fees and initiates the national search, examination and granting procedure. PCT international applications lead only to a national patent grant - there is no international patent.

The national/regional phase processing must usually be initiated within 30 months from the priority date, although extensions to this time limit are available in many offices.

In this report, PCT national phase entries, rather than PCT designations or PCT international applications, are used to represent resident and non-resident patent filings via the PCT system. This is because the national phase filing represents an action on the part of the applicant to actively seek patent protection for a given territory, whereas international filings and designations, while they represent a legal right, do not accurately reflect where patent protection is eventually sought.

More information on the PCT procedure is available on the internet at the address http://www.wipo.int/pct/.

 

F.1 PCT International Applications by Year of Filing

The chart shows the total number of PCT international applications filed worldwide from 1990 to 2006.

Number of PCT international applications filed worldwide from 1990 to 2006

  • The number of PCT international applications increased by 7.9% from 2005 to 2006.
  • The number of PCT international applications increased from 93,237 in 2000 to 147,500 in 2006, an average annual increase of 7.9%.

F.2 PCT International Applications by Country of Origin

The chart shows the number of PCT international applications filed in 2005 and 2006 by country of origin.

Number of PCT international applications filed in 2005 and 2006 by country of origin

  • Applicants from the United States of America are the largest filers of PCT international applications, followed by applicants from Japan and Germany.
  • The number of PCT filings from Northeast Asian countries is increasing rapidly. Filings from the Republic of Korea and China increased by 26.6% and 56.5%, respectively, from 2005 to 2006.
  • All together, the European Patent Office Member States account for 50,016 PCT international applications, which represented an increase of 5.6% from 2005.

F.3 Non-Resident Direct Filings and PCT National Phase Entries by Year of Filing

Patent applicants have a choice of two procedures for filing patent applications outside their country of residence. They can file an application directly at the foreign patent office, while claiming priority of their earlier application according to the criteria of the Paris Convention, or they can file a PCT international application, also claiming priority, and then later request national or regional phase processing of the PCT international application.

The chart shows the number of non-resident patent filings worldwide. Patent applications filed directly at national or regional patent offices are compared to those filed as PCT national or regional phase entries via the PCT system.

Number of non-resident patent filings worldwide

  • Non-resident patent filings using the PCT route represented 48% of the total number of non-resident filings worldwide in 2005.
  • The number of worldwide PCT national phase entries increased by 6.1% from 2004 to 2005.
  • The number of non-resident patent filings filed directly at national or regional offices increased by 8.9% from 2004 to 2005.

F.4 Non-Resident Direct Filings and PCT National Phase Entries by Office

The chart shows the number of non-resident patent applications filed directly at each office and the number of PCT national or regional phase entries via the PCT system by office.

Non-Resident Direct Filings and PCT National Phase Entries by Office

  • The proportion of PCT national phase entries relative to direct non-resident filings varies from one office to another. While some offices such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico and the Republic of Korea receive the majority of their non-resident filings via the PCT system, others such as the United States of America and certain European offices receive more direct international filings than PCT national phase entries.
  • Non-resident patent filings using the PCT route represented 48% of the total number of non-resident filings worldwide in 2005.

F.5 PCT International Applications published by Technical Field

The table below shows the technical fields of PCT international applications published in 2006 and compares each total with the corresponding total for previous years. In this table, PCT international applications are classified according to 30 classifications3 based on the International Patent Classification (IPC) system. As an international application can be counted in more than one technical field, the total of applications by technical field is higher than that of applications published.

PCT International Applications published by Technical Field

  • In 2006, 23% of published PCT international applications were classified in three technical fields, namely telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and information technology.
  • PCT international applications published in the field of semiconductors saw an increase of 28%, making this the fastest growing technical field in 2006, followed by information technology (+22%) and pharmaceuticals and cosmetics (+21%).

F.6 Residence of Inventors compared with Residence of Applicants within PCT International Filings

The chart shows the percentage and composition of foreign inventors in PCT international applications. The Y-axis shows the percentage of foreign inventors in PCT international applications filed by applicants (i.e. companies) of the country concerned. It indicates the probability of employing foreign researchers. The X-axis shows the percentage of inventors who are presented in the PCT international application filed by foreign applicants. It also indicates the probability of inventors working for the foreign applicants. Note that the statistical tables at the end of the report include country codes and names.

Percentage and composition of foreign inventors in PCT international applications

  • Companies of Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden have more foreign inventors than average.
  • Researchers from Belgium, Austria, Great Britain, Canada, Israel and India constituted the largest percentage of inventors working in foreign companies.

G Patent Filing in the European Region

A complete measure of patent filings in the European region needs to take into account the European Patent Convention (EPC) and the fact that patent protection can be sought by filing either at national offices of the EPC member States or at the European Patent Office (EPO).

Other factors influencing patent activity in Europe are the European common market and common currency, which are leading to a high degree of integration of the European economies. This creates an incentive for European patent applicants to seek patent protection in multiple EPC member States, therefore, non-resident patent filings by Europeans in other EPC member State offices and at the EPO have become common.

This section presents several statistics to show the patterns of filing in the European region. There are three different categories of patent filings in this section:

  • Patent filings by residents of EPC member States at the national office of their State of residence.
  • Intra-regional filings, including filings by residents of EPC member States at other EPC member State offices and at the EPO.
  • Extra-regional filings, including filings at EPC member State offices and at the EPO by residents of countries outside the EPC member States.

Patent Filings in the European Patent Convention Region

To seek patent protection in the European region, patent applicants have a choice of two routes: they may apply for patents at the national offices of each European State, or they may apply for a European patent via the European Patent Office (EPO). The EPO grants patents on behalf of the member States of the European Patent Convention (EPC), the membership of which is larger than that of the European Union as some EPC member States are not members of the European Union.

A European patent application can designate one or more EPC member States and, once granted by the EPO, must be separately validated in each of those States.

This dual system means that patent applications with effect in Europe may be filed at the national office or the EPO and explains why the number of filings at some European national offices are lower than might otherwise be expected.

The statistics in this report show activity in the European Patent Office (code EP) and the offices of member States separately. For the purposes of this report, the European region refers to the member States of the European Patent Convention, not the European Union.

 

G.1 Patent Filings in the European Region by Year of Filing

The chart shows the total number of patent applications filed at EPC (European Patent Convention) member States by year of filing. The chart is broken down into resident applications (European residents filing at their home offices), intra-regional applications (European residents filing at other EPC member State offices and at the EPO) and extra-regional applications (from applicants residing in countries that are not EPC member States).

Total number of patent applications filed at EPC member States by year of filing

  • The number of resident patent filings in the European region has been relatively static since 1996, whereas intra-regional filings have grown at an average annual rate of 4.7% and extra-regional filings at an average annual rate of 4.8%.
  • In 2005, the number of resident and intra-regional filings both decreased by 2% from 2004, while the number of extra-regional filings increased by 5%.
  • Resident patent filings make up 39% of patent filings in the European region in 2005, whereas intra-regional filings constitute 28% and extra-regional filings account for 33%.

G.2 Resident Filings at EPC Member States by Office

The chart shows the number of resident patent applications filed at EPC (European Patent Convention) member States by office.

Number of resident patent applications filed at EPC member States by office.

  • Residents of Germany are the biggest filers of patent applications at their national patent office, followed by the United Kingdom and France.

G.3 European Intra-Regional Filings by Office

The chart shows the number of intra-regional patent filings by residents of EPC member States at other EPC member State offices and at the EPO.

European Intra-Regional Filings by Office

  • The EPO accounts for 84% of intra-regional patent applications filed.
  • Most European national offices receive relatively few patent applications from residents of other EPC member States.

G.4 European Extra-Regional Filings by Office

The chart shows the number of patents filed by residents of non-EPC member States at EPC member State offices and at the EPO.

Number of patents filed by residents of non-EPC member States at EPC member State offices and at the EPO

  • Patent applicants from non-EPC member States tend to file at the European Patent Office. The EPO receives 74% of all extra-regional applications.
  • The patent offices of Germany and the United Kingdom receive a significant number of patent filings from extra-regional residents.
  • Note that the PCT national phase route is closed for France, Italy, the Netherlands and several other EPC member States. A PCT applicant seeking protection in those countries must do so by designating the EPO and entering the PCT regional phase at the EPO. This partially accounts for relatively low numbers of non-resident filings at the above-mentioned patent offices.

H Patent Filing in the North East Asian Region

In the past decade, 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.

H.1 Resident Filings in North East Asia by Year of Filing

Resident Filings in North East Asia by Year of Filing

  • Patent filings by residents doubled in the Republic of Korea and increased by more than eight times in China between 1995 and 2005.

H.2 Non-Resident Filings in North East Asia by Year of Filing

Non-Resident Filings in North East Asia by Year of Filing

  • Patent filings by non-residents doubled in the Republic of Korea and increased by more than eight times in China between 1995 and 2005.

I Processing of Patent Applications

I.1 Pending Applications by Office

The chart below shows the number of patent applications pending examination in 2005 for offices for which data is available.

Pending Applications by Office

  • Note that the number of pending applications at the Japan Patent Office is significantly affected by a change in the request for examination period from seven years to three years, which came into effect in 2004. The impact of this change is that a large number of applications filed before 2004, which had a maximum seven year period from filing to request for examination, are due for examination at the same time as many applications filed since 2004. Over time, this dual workload will be reduced and the number of applications pending examination at the Japan Patent Office is expected to decrease significantly.

J Patents Granted

After filing, a patent application is subject to search and/or examination procedure at the patent office. The patent application is usually published before granting and third parties may have the opportunity to file oppositions to the patent before or after granting. The search and examination procedure usually starts soon after filing, but in some offices search and examination are requested separately from the patent application and may be delayed until several years after the application. In some cases, applications may be abandoned by the applicant before they are examined or granted.

The number of patents granted therefore represents the number of patent rights established each year. However, the timing of the patent grant and the success rate at different offices can vary widely and therefore comparisons over time need to be made with caution. In particular, changes in the number of patents granted can be due to the changing capacity of patent offices to examine and grant patents or to changes in time limits or examination practices, rather than an underlying trend in inventive activity.

J.1 Patents Granted Worldwide by Year of Grants

The chart below shows the number of patents granted worldwide by year of grant.

Patents Granted Worldwide by Year of Grants

  • The number of patents granted worldwide in 2005 has remained almost stable from 2004 with about 600,000 patents granted.
  • The average annual growth rate of patents granted between 1995 and 2005 was 3.6%. However, the growth rate has been very uneven and there have been periods of negative growth.

J.2 Patents Granted by Office

The chart shows the number of patents granted by office in 2005.

Patents Granted by Office in 2005

  • The United States Patent Office granted the largest number of patents followed by the offices of Japan, the Republic of Korea (up 2 places from 2004), China (up 1 place from 2004) and the EPO.
  • These five offices account for 74% of patents granted worldwide in 2005.

J.3 Patents Granted by Country of Origin

The chart shows the number of patents granted worldwide by country of origin of the applicants in 2005.

Patents Granted by Country of Origin

  • The largest number of patents granted worldwide originate from residents of Japan, followed by those of the United States of America, the Republic of Korea, Germany and France.
  • These five countries of origin account for 74% of patents granted worldwide in 2005.

J.4 Regional Patents Granted by Designated State

Patents granted by the European Patent Office4 designate one or more of the member States of the European Patent Convention (EPC) and, subject to validation in each of those designated States, enter into force in those States. The total number of patents granted for a member of the EPC is therefore the sum of the patents granted by the national office and the patents granted by the EPO.

The following chart shows the number of patents granted by the EPO in 2005 in each designated State. Note, as above, that these patents are subject to the validation procedure in each member State after granting by the EPO.

Number of patents granted by the EPO in 2005 in each designated State

  • The office of Germany, followed by those of France and the United Kingdom, were the most commonly designated offices in regional patent grants.
  • Most regional grants originate from non-resident applicants.

K Patents In Force

The standard international rule provides that a patent may remain in force for up to twenty years, although extensions beyond twenty years are possible in some circumstances. Most offices require a payment of regular maintenance fees in order to maintain the validity of a patent and many patents are maintained for less time than the maximum twenty-year period.

Note that information on patents in force is not available for several offices, including Brazil, India and some European offices.

K.1 Patents in Force by Office

The chart shows the total number of patents in force by office in 2004 and 2005 for which data is available.

Patents in Force by Office

  • There were a total of about 5.6 million patents in force worldwide in 2005, which is an increase of 2% from 2004.
  • Of this total, 90% are accounted for by the ten offices shown above.

K.2 Patents in Force by Country of Origin

The chart shows the number of patents in force in 2005 according to the country of origin of the patent applicant.

Patents in Force by Country of Origin

  • Applicants from Japan and the United States of America owned 28% and 21%, respectively, of patents in force worldwide in 2005.

K.3 Age Profile of Patents in Force

The chart shows the number of patents in force in 2005 according to the year of filing of the original patent application. As previously noted, a patent may be maintained in force for up to twenty years from the original filing date, but maintenance is subject to payment of maintenance fees at regular intervals to the patent office.

Age Profile of Patents in Force

  • About 50% of patents in force in 2005 were patents filed in 1998 or later.
  • Only 27.5% of the patents in force in 2005 were filed before 1995.

L Statistical Tables

Table 1: Patent Filings and Grants by Office

Patent Filings and Grants by Office

* Estimated Data in italics
** Includes Resident and Non-Resident PCT National Phase Entries

Table 2: Patent Filings, Grants, and In Force by Country and Territory of Origin

Patent Filings, Grants, and In Force by Country and Territory of Origin

Table 3: Patent Filings by Population, GDP and R&D Expenditures

Patent Filings by Population, GDP and R&D Expenditures

Table 4: Total Patent Filings and Grants

Total Patent Filings and Grants

* Rounded due to estimated statistics

M Glossary

Country of Origin The country of residence of the first-named applicant or assignee of a patent application. In some cases (notably that of the United States of America) the country of residence of the inventor is used rather than that of the applicant.
Designated Office / State An office or State which is designated for protection in a PCT international application or a regional patent application. Also a State which is designated for protection by a regional patent grant. Although an office or State may be designated at the time of filing or grant of a patent, the patent protection is often not pursued in all designated States/offices.
European Patent Convention (EPC) An international treaty which permits the applicant to file a single application at the European Patent Office (EPO) and to designate any of the participating European countries. The EPO examines and grants patents on behalf of the designated States.
European Patent Office (EPO) The patent office which searches, examines and grants patents in the context of the European Patent Convention. The EPO also acts as an international searching authority for the PCT and performs searches on behalf of some national offices.
Extra-Regional Filings Patent filings by non-residents of a member State of a region (such as the EPC) in offices of that region.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Standard economic measure of total economic output of a country or region. In this report, GDP is measured in constant year 2000 US dollars at purchasing power parity. This is to make cross-country comparisons more meaningful.
Intra-Regional Filings Patent filings by residents of the member States of a region (such as the EPC) at other offices of the same region.
Maintenance The process by which patent protection is maintained after granting. Usually this consists of paying maintenance fees to the patent office at regular intervals. If maintenance fees are not paid, patent protection may lapse.
Non-Resident An applicant who is a non-resident of the State or region concerned. In patent statistics, the residence of the first applicant or assignee of a patent application is usually used to determine the State of residence. In some cases, notably that of the United States of America, the residence of the inventor is used instead of the applicant/assignee.
Paris Convention International treaty agreed in 1883, which establishes common rules for industrial property rights among member States. In particular, the Paris Convention establishes the “right of priority” which enables a patent application to claim priority of an application filed up to 12 months earlier in another country.
Patent A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. In order to be patentable, the invention must fulfil certain conditions.
Patent Family A patent family is a set of inter-related patent applications filed in one or more countries to protect the same invention.
Patent Filing / Application The procedure for requesting patent protection at a patent office. A patent application normally consists of a form containing information related to the patent applicant, the inventor and to the application, and a specification of the invention which must meet certain formal requirements.
Patent Grant The act of granting or issuing a patent. Once granted, a patent becomes a legal property right, enforceable by law.
Patent In Force A patent which has been granted and which is still in force. To remain in force, maintenance fees must usually be paid up to the maximum period of 20 years from the original filing date in most countries.
Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) A treaty establishing a system for international patent filing which allows for a single international patent application to have effect in multiple designated States, international search, international publication and optional preliminary examination. The PCT system is a patent filing system and not an international patent granting system. Patents are granted at the national level.
PCT International Application An application filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
PCT National Phase Entry A PCT international application which has entered the national/regional phase. The national phase must usually be initiated within 30 months from the priority date of the application (longer time periods are allowed in some offices) and usually requires an explicit action from the applicant and/or payment of fees.
Research and Development (R&D) Standard economic measure of spending on research and development activities. In this report total R&D is measured in constant year 2000 US dollars at purchasing power parity. This is to make cross-country comparisons more meaningful.
Regional Application / Grant A patent application or granted patent which is filed at or granted by a regional patent office. There are currently four regional patent offices in operation: African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), the Eurasian Patent Office (EAPO), the European Patent Office (EPO), African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI).
Resident An applicant who is a resident of the State or region concerned. In patent statistics, the residence of the first applicant or assignee of a patent application is usually used to determine the State of residence. In some cases, notably that of the United States of America, the residence of the inventor is used instead of the applicant/assignee.
Validation Procedure by which patent protection is validated after grant at the offices designated in a EPO patent grant. The procedure is different at different European offices but usually consists of a translation into the national language and/or a payment of fees.
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. WIPO was established by the WIPO Convention in 1967 with a mandate from its member States to promote the protection of IP throughout the world through cooperation among States and in collaboration with other international organizations.
 

N WIPO Patent Resources

The following patent resources are available on the WIPO Internet.

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1 Created by OST-INPI/FhG-ISI. Further details at: http://www.obs-ost.fr/
2 Data for 2004 have been adjusted for missing values.
3 Created by OST-INPI/FhG-ISI. Further details at: http://www.obs-ost.fr/
4 Detailed statistics for other regional offices were not available for the production of this report.

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