Global Intellectual Property Filings Up in 2013, China Drives Patent Application Growth

Geneva, December 16, 2014

Global patent filings extended a run of strong annual increases in 2013, underpinned by double-digit growth in China where about a third of the world’s 2.6 million patent applications were filed, followed by the United States of America (US) and Japan as the next-largest recipients.

Trademark applications rose to nearly 5 million, also driven by strong demand in China.

Amid an uneven pace of global economic recovery, filings also increased for industrial designs and utility models in 2013 for the fourth consecutive year, according to the 2014 edition of the World Intellectual Property Indicators, a benchmark report that gathers data on intellectual property rights from more than 100 countries.

Patent applications

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Trademark applications

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Across the world, IP filing activity saw growth of 9% for patents, 6.4% for trademarks, 2.5% for industrial designs, and 6.3% for plant varieties.

Reflecting growth rates of gross domestic product in many regions, IP filing increases are robust in China and the US, while declining in Europe and Japan.

“Global intellectual property filing trends mirror the broader economic picture,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “The diverging performance of the world economy appears to be leaving its mark on the global innovation landscape.”

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Video: Press conference - Watch on YouTube


In total, innovators filed some 2.57 million patent applications worldwide in 2013, a 9% increase on 2012. The global total consists of 1.71 million resident filings and 0.86 million non-resident filings.

China (32.1% of world total) and the US (22.3%) received more than half of global filings, while the European Patent Office (EPO) saw its share of the world total fall to 5.8%.

The top three patent offices in 2013 were China, with 825,136 filings, followed by the US (571,612) and Japan (328,436). The gap between China and the other offices has widened considerably since 2011, when China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) became the world’s top office in terms of patent filings received.

Among the top 20 offices, China (+26.4%) and Australia (+12.7%) saw the fastest growth in filings, followed by the Republic of Korea (+8.3%). Japan saw a 4.2% decline, while offices in Europe such as Italy (-1.1%), Spain (-6.6%), the UK (-1.3%) and the EPO (-0.4%) received fewer applications in 2013 than in 2012.

Among the large middle-income countries, India (-2.1%) and South Africa (-2%) saw declines in filings while Brazil (+1.5%) and Malaysia (+3.8) recorded growth in filings.

First in resident applications, Chinese applicants filed comparatively few applications abroad - only around 30,000. US and Japanese applicants each filed more than 200,000 filings abroad.

Computer technology (7.6% of total) saw the most published applications worldwide, followed by electrical machinery (7.2%), measurement (4.7%), digital communication (4.5%) and medical technology (4.3%).

An estimated 1.17 million patents were issued in 2013. After strong growth in patent grants worldwide for the previous three years, 2013 saw relatively modest growth of 3.1%. This is mainly due to fewer grants issued by SIPO and a slowdown in the number of grants issued by the Japan Patent Office (JPO).

An estimated 9.45 million patents were in force worldwide in 2013, with the US accounting for the most with 2.39 million (26% of world total), followed by Japan (19%).

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry presents the World Intellectual Property Indicators 2014 at a press conference at the United Nations Office in Geneva (photo: WIPO).


Since 1995, trademark applications have more than doubled. Also, for the first time, the total number of classes specified in applications surpassed 7 million1. Residents filing for protection within their domestic jurisdiction accounted for almost three-quarters of global filing activity (class counts).

China (1.88 million class counts) saw, by far, the highest trademarking activity, followed by the US (486,128) and EU’s OHIM (324,749). Trademark filing activity in China has grown from nearly twice that of the US in 2004 to around four times in 2013.

Over the last decade, trademarks relating to the service class that is associated with, among other things, advertising and business management and administration, have continued to be the most sought after. They are followed by those related to the goods class that covers clothing and the one relating to scientific, photographic, measuring instruments, recording equipment, computers and software.

The total number of trademark registrations issued in 2013 and the previous two years have hovered around three million despite the annual increases in trademark applications, suggesting that backlogs of unprocessed applications may be building up in some larger offices.

Industrial Designs

Following three consecutive years of double-digit growth, 2013 saw a modest 2.5 % growth in the number of industrial designs contained in applications (i.e., design counts).2 The slowdown in worldwide filing activity is due to a sharp slowdown in filings in China, which accounted for 53% of global total in 2013.

In 2013, applications containing around 1.24 million designs were filed worldwide, comprising 1.06 million designs from residents and 180,000 from non-residents.

After seven consecutive years of growth, designs contained in registrations declined by 3.3% in 2013. The fall in global registrations is mainly due to a 12% fall in registrations in China.

IP filings at the top offices, by title

  Growth (%): 2012-13 Share of world total (%): 2013
  Patents Marks
(class count)
(class count)
Patents Marks
(class count)
(class count)
World 9.0 6.4 2.5 100.0 100.0 100.0
China 26.4 13.8 0.3 32.1 26.7 53.1
European Patent Office -0.4 - - 5.8 - -
OHIM (EU office) - 3.6 5.3 - 4.6 7.8
France - 10.3 - - 4.3 -
Germany - - 3.0 - - 4.6
Japan -4.2 - - 12.8 - -
Republic of Korea 8.3 - 7.0 8.0 - 5.6
Russian Federation - 4.9 - - 3.4 -
Turkey - - 10.3 - - 4.1
United States of America 5.3 13.4 - 22.3 6.9 -

Source: WIPO statistics database, October 2014

Plant Varieties

Plant variety applications reached a new record in 2013 with around 15,200 filings worldwide. The 6.3% growth in 2013 is considerably above the 1.6% growth of the previous year.

The EU’s Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) – with 3,296 filings - was the recipient of the largest number of filings, followed by the offices of Ukraine (1,544) and China (1,510).

Among the top five offices, the US (under plant patent act; +22.4%), Ukraine (+20.5%) and the CPVO (+14.9%) saw the fastest growth, while Japan and China received fewer applications in 2013 than in 2012.

Applicants from the Netherlands (2,943) filed the largest number of applications, followed by those from the US (1,879) and China (1,433). The majority of the top 20 origins filed more applications in 2013 than in 2012. Among the top five origins, Germany, the Netherlands and the US saw growth, while China and France recorded declines.

  1. Class counts are the total number of classes specified in trademark applications. Some IP offices have a single-class filing system, which requires applicants to file a separate application for each class in which the goods or services to which the mark is applied are classified. Other offices follow a multi-class filing system, which enables applicants to file a single application in which goods or services belonging to a number of classes can be specified.
  2. Design counts are the total number of designs contained in industrial design applications. Some IP offices allow applications to contain more than one design, while other IP offices allow only one design per application.

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 189 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society's evolving needs. It provides business services for obtaining IP rights in multiple countries and resolving disputes. It delivers capacity-building programs to help developing countries benefit from using IP. And it provides free access to unique knowledge banks of IP information.

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