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China Becomes Top Filer of International Patents in 2019 Amid Robust Growth for WIPO’s IP Services, Treaties and Finances

Geneva, April 7, 2020

China in 2019 surpassed the United States of America (U.S.) as the top source of international patent applications filed with WIPO amid another year of robust growth for the Organization’s international intellectual property (IP) services, treaty-adherence activity and revenue base.

Video: WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, in a video broadcast on the results of WIPO in 2019, program highlights and challenges for 2020 including the COVID-19 pandemic.

2019 was the year that was. … Last year was the best year we have experienced in the course of the past decade. In fact, it was the best year we have experienced in the history of the Organization.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry in his video broadcast

With 58,990 applications filed in 2019 via WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) System, China ended the U.S. (57,840 applications in 2019) reign as the biggest user of the PCT System that helps incentivize and spread innovation – a position previously held by the U.S. each year since the PCT began operations in 1978.

International patent applications filed via the PCT grew by 5.2% (265,800 applications) in 2019, while international trademark applications via the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks increased by 5.7% (64,400 applications). Protection for industrial designs via the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs saw a 10.4% growth (21,807 designs), capping another record-setting year for WIPO’s global IP services.

Trademark owners filed a record 3,693 cases under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) with WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center, while WIPO’s two-dozen plus treaties gained 55 new accessions or ratifications in 2019 and preliminary financial results showed an approximate surplus of 97.5 million Swiss francs.


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“China’s rapid growth to become the top filer of international patent applications via WIPO underlines a long-term shift in the locus of innovation towards the East, with Asia-based applicants now accounting for more than half of all PCT applications,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. In 1999, WIPO received 276 applications from China. By 2019, that number rose to 58,990 – a 200-fold increase in only twenty years, Mr. Gurry noted.

"Meanwhile, IP is increasingly at the heart of global competition. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that innovation is not a zero-sum game – that a net increase in global innovation means new drugs, communications technologies, solutions for global challenges that benefit everyone, wherever they live. I am pleased that WIPO’s IP services are successfully helping foster innovation and spread it worldwide,” said Mr. Gurry.

A decade of growth for WIPO’s IP services

Service 2009 2019 10-year growth
PCT (Patents) 155,408 265,800 71.0 %
Madrid System (Trademarks) 36,094 64,400 78.4%
Hague System (Industrial designs) 8,166 21,807 167.0%

International patent system (Patent Cooperation Treaty – PCT)

In 2019, the top five users of the PCT were: China (58,990 PCT applications), the U.S (57,840), Japan (52,660), Germany (19,353) and the Republic of Korea (19,085) (Annex 1) PDF, Annex 1. The top 15 origins consist of 12 high-income countries and three middle-income countries, namely China, Turkey (2,058) and India (2,053). Applicants based in Asia accounted for 52.4% of all PCT applications filed in 2019, while Europe (23.2%) and North America (22.8%) accounted for less than a quarter each.

Among the top 15 origins, Turkey (+46.7%), the Republic of Korea (+12.8%), Canada (+12.2%) and China (+10.6%) recorded double-digit annual growth in 2019. The strong growth for Turkey moved it up in the top 15 rank for the first time. Among the top 15 origins, Germany (-2%) and the Netherlands (-3%) are the only two origins to report a decrease in filings.

Top PCT filers

Who filed the most PCT patent applications
in 2019? PDF, infographic, international applications filed under the PCT in 2019

For the third consecutive year, China-based telecoms giant Huawei Technologies, with 4,411 published PCT applications, was the top corporate filer in 2019. It was followed by:

  • Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan (2,661);
  • Samsung Electronics of the Republic of Korea (2,334;
  • Qualcomm Inc. of the U.S. (2,127); and
  • Guang Dong Oppo Mobile Telecommunications of China (1,927).

The top 10 applicant list comprises four companies from China, two from the Republic of Korea, and one each from Germany, Japan, Sweden and the U.S. (Annex 2) PDF, Annex 2. Of the top 10 applicants, six filed mainly in digital communication, namely, Ericsson, Guang Dong Oppo Mobile Telecommunications, Huawei Technologies, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Qualcomm.

Among educational institutions, the University of California maintained its top rank with 470 published applications in 2019. Tsinghua University (265) ranked second, followed by Shenzhen University (247), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (230) and South China University of Technology (164) (Annex 3) PDF, Annex 3. The top 10-university list comprises five universities from the U.S., four from China and one from the Republic of Korea.

Top technologies

Among fields of technology, computer technology (8.7% of total) accounted for the largest share of published PCT applications, followed by digital communication (7.7%), electrical machinery (7%), medical technology (6.9%) and measurement (4.7%), (Annex 4) PDF, Annex 4. Among the top 10 technologies, semiconductors (+12%) and computer technology (+11.9%) were the fields with the highest rates of growth in 2019.

International trademark system (Madrid System)

U.S.-based applicants (10,087) filed the largest number of international trademark applications using WIPO’s Madrid System in 2019, followed by those located in Germany (7,700), China (6,339), France (4,437) and Switzerland (3,729) (Annex 5) PDF, Annex 5.

Who filed the most Madrid trademark
applications in 2019? PDF, infographic, international applications under the Madrid System in 2019

Among the top 15 origins, Turkey (+37.8%), the Russian Federation (+15.6%), the U.S. (+14.3%) and Switzerland (+10.2%) recorded double-digit growth. In contrast, Italy (–16%) saw a sharp drop.

Top Madrid filers

L’Oréal of France with 189 applications headed the list of top filers, followed by Novartis AG of Switzerland (135), Huawei Technologies of China (131), Nirsan Connect Private Limited of India (124) and Rigo Trading of Luxembourg (103). Nirsan Connect filed 82 more applications in 2019 than in 2018, elevating it from 22nd position to the fourth spot. For the first time, applicants from China and India are among the top five applicants. (Annex 6) PDF, Annex 6.

Top classes

The most-specified class in international applications – computers and electronics – accounted for 10.1% of the total, followed by services for business (8.3%) and technological services (6.7%). Among the top 10 classes, pharmaceuticals and other preparations for medical purposes (+12.4%), and services in the area of education, training, entertainment, sporting and cultural activities (+9.6%) saw the fastest growth.

International design system (Hague System)

The number of designs contained in applications filed under the Hague System grew by 10.4% in 2019, reaching a record 21,807 designs. (Annex 7) PDF, Annex 7.

Who filed the most Hague design applications
in 2019? PDF, infographic, international design applications filed in 2019

Germany, with 4,487 designs, continued to be the largest user of the international design system. The Republic of Korea (2,736 designs) surpassed Switzerland (2,178) to become the second largest users of the Hague System in 2019. Italy and the Netherlands ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, with 1,994 and 1,376 designs. Among the top five origins, the Republic of Korea (+77.1%) and Italy (+58.1%) saw the fastest growth, while Switzerland (- 11.2%) saw a sharp drop in 2019.

Top Hague filers

Samsung Electronics of the Republic of Korea with 929 designs in published registrations headed the list of top filers, followed by Fonkel Meubelmarketing of the Netherlands (859), LG Electronics of the Republic of Korea (598), Volkswagen of Germany (536) and Procter & Gamble of the U.S. (410). The top 10 applicants list is comprised of two applicants each from Italy, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea and the U.S., and one each from France and Germany. (Annex 8) PDF, Annex 8.

Top fields

Designs related to recording and communication equipment (13.6%) accounted for the largest share of total designs in 2019 followed by furnishing (10.1%); means of transport (9.4%); packages and containers (6.4%); and lighting apparatus (6.2%). Among the top 10 classes, recording and communication equipment (+46.4%) and clothing (+35.1) saw the fastest growth.

Domain name disputes; arbitration and mediation (WIPO Center)

Trademark owners filed a record 3,693 cases under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) with WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center in 2019 as businesses acted to counter abuses of their trademarks in the Domain Name System (Annex 9) PDF, Annex 9. WIPO’s 2019 caseload covered 6,298 domain names in total. The Center held a major October 2019 conference in Geneva to mark the 20th anniversary of the UDRP system, under which WIPO has already administered over 46,000 cases.

Representing 76.9% of the generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) caseload, cases in .COM demonstrated the continuing popularity of the legacy gTLDs (Annex 10) PDF, Annex 10. For the first time, WIPO’s caseload also included domain names in the national .CN domain (China).

WIPO UDRP cases in 2019 involved parties from 122 countries, up from 109 in 2018. The U.S., with 1,132 cases filed, France (637), and the U.K. (343) remained the top three filing countries, while Switzerland (250) and Germany (216) swapped places to round out the top five (Annex 11) PDF, Annex 11.

Also in 2019, the WIPO Center received 62 mediation, arbitration, and expert determination cases in different areas of IP, up slightly from the previous year’s caseload. The WIPO Center also handled 117 good-offices requests.

Patent-related disputes remained the most common in WIPO’s caseload, followed by information and communications technology (ICT), trademark, and copyright disputes. WIPO cases include transactions such as research and development (R&D) agreements, patent licensing agreements, trademark co-existence agreements, distribution agreements, software agreements, film co-production agreements, consortium agreements and sports broadcasting agreements.

Treaty accessions and ratifications

In 2019, WIPO’s 26 treaties attracted 55 ratifications or accessions, the majority representing accessions from developing countries – an important indicator that the international IP framework remains relevant and reflects the needs and interests of all countries, irrespective of their stage of economic development.

I welcome the strong commitment to multilateralism by member states evidenced in the high number of accessions to WIPO-administered treaties.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry

Copyright treaties enjoyed the most accessions overall and more countries acceded to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled than any other treaty administered by WIPO.

A major development in 2019 was the deposit by the European Union of the last required instrument of accession or ratification for the entry into force of the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications. The Geneva Act entered into force on February 26, 2020.

Already in the first quarter of 2020, there have been 10 accessions to WIPO treaties, suggesting another year with a high rate of accessions if that rate were to continue. This includes the ratification by Indonesia of the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, which will enter into force on April 28, 2020.

Positive financial results

Unique in the United Nations system, WIPO is primarily a fee-funded agency, with about 92 percent of its revenues derived from fees for services provided to commercial enterprises, universities and research institutions with IP assets to promote and protect. WIPO’s preliminary financial results for 2019 points to an approximate revenue of 457.6 million Swiss francs and an approximate expenditure of 402.2 million Swiss francs, registering a surplus of 55.4 million Swiss francs.

In addition, gains on investment in 2019 amounted to 42.1 million Swiss francs. The overall financial result (surplus and investment gains) is therefore estimated at approximately 97.5 million Swiss francs for the year 2019. It should be noted that the financial closure for the year 2019 is still ongoing and that figures are subject to audit. The positive financial result for 2019 is driven primarily by higher than estimated income and investment gains.

WIPO’s stable and healthy financial situation results from high demand for the Organization’s services coupled with a disciplined approach to expenditure. These factors have enabled the Organization to be in a strong position to face the uncertainties and probable downturn that are being provoked by the Covid-19 crisis.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the United Nations agency that serves the world’s innovators and creators, ensuring that their ideas travel safely to the market and improve lives everywhere.

We do so by providing services that enable creators, innovators and entrepreneurs to protect and promote their intellectual property (IP) across borders and acting as a forum for addressing cutting-edge IP issues. Our IP data and information guide decisionmakers the world over. And our impact-driven projects and technical assistance ensure IP benefits everyone, everywhere.

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