Global Patent Applications Rose to 2.9 Million in 2015 on Strong Growth From China; Demand Also Increased for Other Intellectual Property Rights

Geneva, November 23, 2016
PR/2016/802

Innovators in China powered global patent applications to a new record in 2015, filing more than a million applications for the first time ever within a single year amid rising worldwide demand for intellectual property rights that undergird economic activity.

Videos: Press conference Video (watch on YouTube) | Report highlights from WIPO DG Gurry Video (watch on YouTube) and Chief Economist Carsten Fink Video (watch on YouTube)

In total, innovators around the world lodged some 2.9 million patent applications in 2015, representing a 7.8% increase over 2014 and the sixth straight year of rising demand for patent protection, according to WIPO’s annual World Intellectual Property Indicators (WIPI) report. Trademark applications jumped by 15.3% to about 6 million in 2015, as worldwide industrial design applications grew by 2.3% to 872,800.

While Chinese innovators filed the most patent applications (1,010,406) in 2015, followed by those from the United States of America (526,296) and Japan (454,285), they are comparatively home-focused: Innovators based in China filed 42,154 applications for patents outside their own borders, while U.S.-based innovators were the most outward-looking, with 237,961 patent applications filed abroad.

Infographic: 2015 IP filings

2015 IP Filings
Patent, trademark and industrial design filings in 2015

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Highlights

Video: A one-minute tour of key IP filing trends in 2015 - Watch on YouTube

“As policy-makers seek to invigorate growth around the world, it is encouraging to report that intellectual property filing activity saw healthy progression in 2015,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “While China continues to drive global increases, IP use grew in most countries in 2015, reflecting its increasing importance in a globalized knowledge economy.”

  2014 2015 Growth (%)
Patent applications 2,680,900 2,888,800 7.8
Trademark applications 5,187,900 5,983,000 15.3
Industrial design applications 853,500 872,800 2.3

Patents

In total, innovators filed some 2.9 million patent applications worldwide in 2015, up 7.8% from 2014, higher than the 4.5% growth rate in 2014. Resident filings, where innovators filed for protection in their home economy, accounted for around two-thirds of the 2015 total.

China’s patent office received 1,101,864 filings in 2015, making it the first office to receive more than a million applications in a single year – including both filings from residents in China as well as from overseas innovators seeking patent protection inside China. This totaled almost as many applications as the next three offices combined: the U.S. (589,410), Japan (318,721) and the Republic of Korea (213,694).

Together with the European Patent Office (EPO; 160,028), the top five offices accounted for a combined share of 82.5% of global filings. Among the top five offices, China (+18.7%) had the fastest growth, followed by the EPO (+4.8%), the U.S. (+1.8%) and the Republic of Korea (+1.6%). In contrast, Japan’s patent office saw a 2.2% decrease. This continues a downward trend that started in 2005 and mainly reflects decline in resident filings.   

U.S. applicants filed the most applications abroad (237,961), marking a 6% increase, followed by those from Japan, which decreased 2.3 % to 195,446, and Germany, which saw a 3.6% drop to 101,892.  

Though innovators based in China filed comparatively fewer overseas applications (42,154), that figure has risen steadily over the past two decades and now nearly equals the total of France (46,581).

Computer technology (7.9% of the total) saw the highest percentage of published patent applications worldwide, followed by electrical machinery (7.3%) and digital communication (4.9%).

Around 1.24 million patents were granted worldwide in 2015, up 5.2% on 2014 and the fastest growth rate since 2012. This was due mainly to an increase of grants in China, which issued 359,316 patents in 2015 to surpass the U.S. (298,407) as the largest patent issuing office.

An estimated 10.6 million patents were in force around the globe in 2015. About a quarter of these were in the US (24.9% of the total), followed by 18.3% in Japan and 13.9% in China. 

Trademarks

An estimated 6 million trademark applications covering 8.4 million classes were filed globally in 2015.1 Largely driven by China, applications increased by 15.3%, which represents the highest growth since 2000. Around 78% of global filing activity can be attributed to resident applicants that filed for protection in their own country.

China – with a class count of 2.83 million – saw by far the highest trademark filing activity in 2015. It was followed by the U.S. (517,297), the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO; 366,383), Japan (345,070) and India (289,843). Among the top 20 offices, Japan (+43%), Italy (+32.6%), China (+27.4%), India (+21.9%) and the Republic of Korea (+13.9%) reported double-digit growth in 2015.

Around 4.4 million trademark registrations covering 6.2 million classes were recorded worldwide in 2015. This was a 26.6% increase on 2014 and the fastest growth in over 15 years.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry presents the World Intellectual Property Indicators 2016 at a press conference at the United Nations Office in Geneva (photo: WIPO).

Industrial Designs

Global industrial design applications filed in 2015 grew by 2.3%, rebounding from a sharp decrease recorded in 2014 when there was a large drop-off in filings in China. Designers across the world filed 872,800 applications containing 1.1 million designs.2 Growth was mainly due to increases in applications filed in China, the Republic of Korea and the U.S.   

China’s office received applications containing 569,059 designs, accounting for half of the world total. It was followed by the EUIPO (98,162), and the offices of the Republic of Korea (72,458), Germany (56,499) and Turkey (45,852). Among them, the Republic of Korea (+5.9%) and China (+0.8%) saw growth, while Germany (-7.5%), Turkey (-6%) and the EUIPO (-0.1%) saw lower filing activity in 2015 than in 2014. 

Designs related to furnishings accounted for 9.4% of all filings, followed by those related to clothing (8.3%) and to packages and containers (7%).

The total number of industrial designs registered worldwide increased by 21.3% in 2015, mainly due to strong growth in registrations in China.

Footnotes

1 Class count is 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 count is 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 191 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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