WIPO Report Shows Growth in IP Rights before Onset of Economic Crisis

Geneva, September 18, 2009

A new WIPO report monitoring recent trends in intellectual property (IP) activity shows that demand for IP rights continued to increase prior to the onset of the global economic crisis, with 1.85 million patent (+3.7% increase over 2006), almost 3.3 million trademark (+1.6%) and approximately 0.62 million industrial design (+15.3%) applications filed worldwide in 2007. The report, World Intellectual Property Indicators 20091[PDF], points to a slowdown in demand for IP rights in 2008 (based on preliminary figures2), when the global economy experienced a sharp decline.  The report also documents an increased level of unprocessed (pending) patent applications, reaching 4.2 million applications in 2007. 

In the Report’s Foreword, WIPO Director General Dr. Francis Gurry said “History has shown … that companies and countries which continue to invest in new products and innovation during times of economic recession will be those that will be best positioned to take advantage of the recovery, when it arrives.”  He noted that “IP statistics help us to understand the role of the IP system in stimulating and diffusing innovation, promoting markets for new products, and rewarding creativity. They also contribute to discussions and to the formulation of effective IP policies for addressing a wide range of public policy concerns.”  

The report offers a comprehensive overview of the use of IP rights, taking into account the often wide variation in national IP systems. Based on 2007 figures (the last year for which complete worldwide statistics are available), the report analyzes trends in demand for IP rights relating to patents, utility models, trademarks and industrial designs. 

Patents and Utility Models 

In 2007, patent filings increased by 3.7%, down on the 5.2% growth recorded in 2006, in line with an already weakened world economy in 2007. Approximately, 59.2% of total patent applications in 2007 were filed in China, Japan and the United States of America (USA). Preliminary data for 2008 suggest weaker growth in patent filings, though the depth of the slowdown remains unclear. 

Reflecting the integration of the world economy, many companies continued to seek IP protection outside their domestic markets. In 2007, non-residents accounted for 43.3% of the patents filed worldwide, maintaining a level that was established in 2001. 

The report also shows that the number of patents filed in emerging economies is increasing rapidly. Non-residents account for the largest shares of patent filings in most emerging economies, with China and several countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia constituting notable exceptions. 

In 2007, the number of patents granted worldwide rose to an estimated 764,700, representing a 1.6% growth rate (compared to an exceptionally high rate of 19.4% in 2006). This slowdown is attributed to a substantial decrease in patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO). 

The USPTO, which has issued the highest number of patents since 1998, was overtaken in 2007 by the patent office of Japan. The patent office of China replaced the EPO as the fourth largest office in terms of issuing grants. The five largest patent offices (the patent offices of Japan, the USA, the Republic of Korea, China and the EPO) accounted for 74.4% of total patent grants. 

Some 6.3 million patents were in force in 2007, with residents of Japan and the USA owning approximately 47% of this total.  

In 2007, at least 4.2 million patent applications were pending around the world. The USPTO accounted for around 28% of this backlog, followed by Japan, the EPO and the ROK. 

In 2008, approximately 163,600 Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications were filed, representing a 2.3% increase on 2007 figures. Applicants from the USA accounted for around 32.7% of all PCT filings. The PCT is an international treaty administered by WIPO, which makes it possible to file patent applications in a large number of countries by filing a single PCT application. Growth rates for PCT applications have decreased since 2005. 

Utility models are an important alternative to patents in certain jurisdictions, typically entailing a less stringent inventive-step requirement. China received and granted the majority of utility model applications in 2007. Germany, Japan, the ROK and the Russian Federation also had a notable level of utility model activity. 


The report also offers an overview of trends in trademark activity up to 2007. In that year, some 3.3 million trademark applications were filed worldwide reflecting a 1.6% increase over 2006. Preliminary data available for 2008, however, point to a possible decrease in trademark applications. 

China received over one-fifth of all trademark applications filed in 2007 and the USA received nearly one-tenth of such applications, followed by Japan and the ROK. 

Global trademark registrations rose in 2007 to approximately 2.2 million, representing a 6% growth rate.  Increased registration activity in Brazil is largely responsible for the stronger growth in 2007 compared to the previous year. 

Residents of China and the USA each accounted for around 11% of global trademark registrations in 2007. However, only a small proportion of trademarks registered by residents of China are protected in other jurisdictions, whereas about 43% of trademarks registered by US residents are protected abroad. Non-resident applicants accounted for some 35% of trademarks registered worldwide. 

In 2007, around 16.4 million trademarks were in force worldwide with Japan and the USA together accounting for around one-fifth of these, followed by France and Germany, each having around 1 million trademarks in force. Approximately 125,000 of the trademarks in force in 2007 were first registered prior to 1960, reflecting their sustained commercial value. 

Use of the WIPO-administered Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks rose in 2008 by 6.5% with nearly 41,000 registrations. The Madrid System makes it possible to register and renew international trademarks in up to 84 jurisdictions by means of a single application.  

Industrial Designs 

At 15.3%, the growth rate of industrial design applications (some 621,000) in 2007 outpaced growth rates recorded for other IP rights. Since 2005, industrial design applications worldwide have experienced double-digit growth thanks largely to increased activity in China which accounted for 43.1% of worldwide applications. 

In 2007, the share of total industrial design registrations by non-residents amounted to just 19.8%, which is below the equivalent shares for patents and trademarks. Industrial design protection is sought less frequently in foreign markets, because the products in question are geared mainly toward domestic commercialization.  

Of the 2.7 million industrial design rights in force in 2007, residents of France accounted for the largest number (406,225). More than 250,000 such rights were also in force in China, Germany and Japan, respectively. 

In 2008, the use of the Hague System, which makes it possible for an applicant to register an industrial design in multiple countries by filing a single application with the international bureau of WIPO, saw exceptionally high growth (32.8%) in registrations due to the accession of the European Community to the System.


1 World Intellectual Property Indicators 2009 is a new publication and successor to the World Patent Report. This report is the output of a continuing effort at WIPO to provide accurate and timely IP data that are freely and universally accessible.
2 Because of the time required to collect and process data from national and regional IP offices, the impact of the economic recession in 2008/09 is not fully reflected in this report.

For further information, please contact the Media Relations Section at WIPO:
  • Tel: (+41 22) - 338 81 61 / 338 72 24
  • Fax: (+41 22) - 338 81 40
  • E-mail