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World Intellectual Property Indicators Report: Worldwide Trademark Filing Soars in 2020 Despite Global Pandemic

Geneva, November 8, 2021

Go to: Patents | Trademarks | Industrial designs | Plant varieties | Geographical indications

Worldwide trademark-filing activity boomed in 2020, defying a global economic downturn and signaling vibrant entrepreneurship and the introduction of new goods and services in response to the pandemic.

Interactive charts: Barchart

WIPO’s World Intellectual Property Indicators Report (WIPI) also showed that patent and industrial designs filing activity rebounded in 2020, illustrating the resilience of human innovation even amid the dire global health situation. 

Trademark filing activity rose by 13.7%, patents by 1.6% and designs by 2% according to the WIPI, which compiles new data from some 150 national and regional authorities and shows how innovators, designers and brands are increasingly relying on intellectual property tools to expand their enterprises and seek new growth.

“WIPO’s World Intellectual Property Indicators Report confirms that despite the deepest economic contraction in decades, intellectual property filings - a strong indicator of innovation - showed remarkable resilience during the pandemic,” said WIPO Director General Daren Tang. This is in contrast to the financial crisis of 2008-2009, when both patent and trademark filing activity contracted sharply, said Mr. Tang.  

Commenting on the particularly strong growth in trademark filings in 2020, Mr. Tang said: "This shows how enterprises across the globe have brought new products and services to the market, as reflected by the double-digit growth in trademarks filing activity in 2020 despite the massive economic shock. Despite the difficult situation, enterprises are finding opportunities to reach customers in new ways, open up new markets and bring their ideas to the world using IP."

The annual WIPI report collects and analyzes IP data to inform policy makers, business leaders, investors, academics and others seeking macro trends in innovation and creativity.

“The WIPI is an important tool to understand the landscape to see where innovation is happening around the world,” said Assistant Director General Marco Aleman, who oversees WIPO’s work relating to statistics, adding “We live in a world of data-driven decisions, so this report helps policy makers and others plan for the future.”

World Intellectual Property Indicators – 2021

An authoritative annual survey of IP activity around the globe.


IP Right applications 2019 2020 Growth (%), 2019-2020
Patents 3,226,100 3,276,700 1.6
Trademarks * 15,130,000 17,198,300 13.7
Industrial designs * 1,361,000 1,387,800 2.0
Plant variety 21,430 22,520 5.1

Note: * indicates trademark classes and designs contained in applications allow for cross-border comparison, as some countries require individual filings for each class or design, while others allow for multiple classes/designs in a single filing.


Worldwide patent-filing activity returned to growth in 2020 after the first dip in a decade in 2019, driven by a decline in China. In 2020, China’s IP office reported growth again with 1.5 million patent applications. This was 2.5 times more than the amount received by the patent office of the second leading country, the United States (USPTO; 597,172). The U.S. was followed by Japan (JPO; 288,472), the Republic of Korea (KIPO; 226,759) and the European Patent Office (EPO; 180,346). Together, these five offices accounted for 85.1% of the world total.

Among the top 10 offices, only three offices – China (+6.9%), India (+5.9%) and the Republic of Korea (+3.6%) – recorded growth in applications in 2020, while Germany (–7.9%) and Japan (–6.3%) saw a steep declines.

Germany (62,105), India (56,771), the Russian Federation (34,984), Canada (34,565) and Australia (29,294) also featured among the top 10 offices.

Offices located in Asia received two-thirds (66.6%) of all applications filed worldwide in 2020 – a considerable increase from 51.5% in 2010 –driven by long-term growth in China as well as increased IP activity in other parts of Asia. Offices located in North America accounted for almost one-fifth (19.3%) of the world total, while those in Europe accounted for just over one-tenth (10.9%). The combined share of offices located in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania was 3.2% in 2020. A decade ago, around five out of 10 IP applications were in Asia, last year, this number was close to 7 out of 10 IP applications.

Focusing on filings abroad, which is an indication of a desire to expand in new markets, U.S.-based applicants filed the most equivalent applications abroad (226,297) in 2020, followed by Japan (195,906), Germany (99,791), China (96,268) and the Republic of Korea (80,133).

Patents in force worldwide grew by 5.9% to reach around 15.9 million in 2020. The highest number of patents in force was recorded in the U.S. (3.3 million), followed by China (3.1 million), Japan (2 million) the Republic of Korea (1.1 million) and Germany (0.8 million).

China saw the fastest growth in patents in force in 2020 (+14.5%), followed by Germany (+8.1%), the U.S. (+6.9%) and the Republic of Korea (+4.6%). Japan reported a small decrease (−0.7%) in 2020.

In 2019 – the latest year for which complete data are available due to the delay between confidential application and publication – computer technology was the most frequently featured technology in published patent applications worldwide, with 284,146 published applications followed by electrical machinery (210,429), measurement (182,612), digital communication (155,011) and medical technology (154,706).


An estimated 13.4 million trademark applications covering 17.2 million classes were filed worldwide in 2020. The number of classes specified in applications grew by a remarkable 13.7% in 2020, marking an eleventh successive year of growth. Many countries around the global saw a considerable downturn in economic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, trademark filing activity grew substantially in 16 of the top 20 offices. In fact, 11 offices recorded double-digit growth in 2020, ranging from 12.2% in Germany to 44.3% in Indonesia. In most cases, growth in resident filings drove the overall growth.

China’s IP office had the highest volume of filing activity[1] with a class count of around 9.3 million; followed by the USPTO. (870,306), the Islamic Republic of Iran (541,750), the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) (438,511) and the office of India (424,583). India’s office overtook Japan to become the fifth largest office for trademark filing activity.

Offices located in Asia accounted for 71.8% of all trademark filing activity in 2020, up from 41.3% in 2010. Europe’s share declined from 34.1% in 2010 to 14.7% in 2020. North America accounted for 5.9% of the world total in 2020, while the combined share of offices located in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania was 7.7% in 2020.

The strong growth in global trademark filing activity is driven by robust growth in trademark filings in products and services related to advertising and business management; pharmaceuticals; surgical, medical and dental goods. The share of filings related to pharmaceuticals increased from 4.1% in 2019 to 4.6% in 2020, while that of surgical, medical and dental goods increased from 1.5% to 2.3%.

These trends were mirrored at the national level in many countries that saw large increases of trademark filing activity.  For example, India’s 15.4% growth in trademark activity was driven by resident filings in pharmaceuticals.  In Iran, in turn, local pharmaceuticals were the third largest contributor to a 19.1% overall increase, behind advertising, business management, and transport.

There were an estimated 64.4 million active trademark registrations worldwide in 2020 – up 11.2% on 2019, with 30.2 million in China alone, followed by 2.6 million in the U.S., and 2.4 million in India.

Industrial designs

An estimated 1.1 million industrial design applications containing 1.4 million designs were filed worldwide in 2020, representing a 2% year-on-year increase. China’s IP office received applications containing 770,362 designs in 2020, corresponding to 55.5% of the world total. It was followed by the EUIPO (113,196) and KIPO (70,821), USPTO (50,743) and Turkey (47,653).

Among the top 10 offices, the U.K (+9.5%) and China (+8.3%) recorded strong growth in design filing activity in 2020, while Turkey (+3.1%), the Republic of Korea (+2.1%) and the U.S. (+1.8%) saw a modest growth.[2]

Offices located in Asia accounted for 70.9% of all designs in applications filed worldwide in 2020, up from 60.8% in 2010. Europe’s share declined from 31.5% in 2010 to 22.1% in 2020. The combined share of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America and Oceania was 7% in 2020.

The total number of industrial design registrations in force worldwide grew by 11% in 2020 to reach around 4.8 million. The largest number of registrations in force was in China (2.2 million), followed by the U.S. (371,870), the Republic of Korea (369,526), Japan (263,307) and the EUIPO (251,692).

Designs related to furniture and household goods (18.4%) accounted for the largest proportion of global filing activity in 2020; followed by textiles and accessories (14.1%); tools and machines (11.6%); electricity and lighting (9.8%) and construction (8.5%).

Plant varieties

Around 22,520 plant variety applications were filed worldwide in 2020, up +5.1% on 2019. China’s relevant office received 8,960 plant variety applications in 2020, corresponding to 39.8% of the world total. China was followed by the Community Plant Variety Office of the European Union (CPVO; 3,427) and relevant offices of the U.S. (1,432), Ukraine (1,260) and the Netherlands (837).

Among the top 10 offices, six offices saw growth in filings between 2019 and 2020, with double-digits growth in Argentina (+18.8%) and China (+14.4%). Robust growth was also reported by the Netherlands (+9.1%), the Republic of Korea (+4.9%) and the Russian Federation (+4.6%).

Geographical indications

Data from the 92 national and regional authorities show there are an estimated 58,800 protected geographical indications (GIs) in existence in 2020. GIs are signs used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin, such as Gruyère for cheese or Tequila for spirits. Germany (14,394) reported the largest number of GIs in force, followed by China (8,476), Hungary (7,566) and the Czech Republic (6,180).

GIs in force relating to “wines and spirits” accounted for around 56.1% of the 2020 world total, followed by agricultural products and foodstuffs (38.6%) and handicrafts (3.6%).


1Trademark filing activity refers to the total number of classes specified in trademark applications.

2Industrial design filing activity refers to the total number of designs contained in industrial design applications.

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