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Innovative Activity Overcomes Pandemic Disruption - WIPO's Global Intellectual Property Filing Services Reach Record Levels

Geneva, February 10, 2022

Innovative enterprises and individuals around the world overcame the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 to drive WIPO's global intellectual property (IP) services for patents, trademarks and designs to record-setting levels.

International patent applications filed via WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), a widely used metric for measuring innovative activity, grew by 0.9% in 2021 to reach 277,500 applications – the highest-ever level.  Asia manifested its lead as the largest origin of international patent applications, accounting for 54.1% of all applications in 2021, up from 38.5% in 2011.

WIPO's global trademark (Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks) and design (Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs) filing systems, used to protect and promote brands and the look and feel of products like mobile phones, each notched double-digit growth to mark new records as did WIPO's anti-cybersquatting and arbitration and mediation activities.

"These figures show that human ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit remain strong despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic." said WIPO Director General Daren Tang.

WIPO's global IP services help local enterprises go global by making it easier and cheaper to promote their businesses overseas. Although COVID-19 related restrictions have kept humans and families apart, it cannot stop the worldwide movement of fresh ideas, innovative products and new services.

WIPO Director General Daren Tang

IP filing activity has grown during the global pandemic, even during the 2020 drop in worldwide economic growth. Innovative activity and globalized operations are increasingly central to many enterprises and are long-term commitments. Madrid System trademark filings, which reflect new business starts and creation of brands, declined at the height of the pandemic in 2020 but rebounded in 2021 with strong growth in filings originating from France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.  The strong uptake of international trademarks during 2021 shows how companies seized opportunities for introducing new goods and services as consumer demands shifted and the digitalization of economies accelerated amid the pandemic.


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International patent system (Patent Cooperation Treaty – PCT)

Top PCT filers

China (69,540 applications, +0.9% year-on-year growth) remained the largest user of the PCT in 2021. This was followed by the U.S. (59,570 applications, +1.9%), Japan (50,260 applications, –0.6%), the Republic of Korea (20,678 applications, +3.2%) and Germany (17,322 applications, –6.4%) (Annex 1 PDF, Annex 1).

Beyond the top 10, Singapore (1,617 applications, +23%), Finland (1,907 applications, +13.8%) and Turkey (1,829 applications, +13.2%) each saw strong growth in PCT filings in 2021. Asia in 2021 accounted for the majority of all PCT filing activity, as part of a larger trajectory over the past two decades of the rise of Asia as an engine of innovative activity.

China-based telecoms giant Huawei Technologies, with 6,952 published PCT applications, was the top filer in 2021. It was followed by Qualcomm Inc. of the U.S. (3,931), Samsung Electronics of the Republic of Korea (3,041), LG Electronics Inc. of the Republic of Korea (2,885) and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan (2,673) (Annex 2 PDF, Annex 2).

Among the top 10 filers, Qualcomm Inc. reported the fastest growth (+80.9%) in the number of published applications in 2021 and as a result it moved up from fifth position in 2020 to second spot in 2021. Filings related to digital communication by Qualcomm almost doubled – from 1,486 in 2020 to 2,951 in 2021 – helping drive the strong overall growth.

The University of California with 551 published applications continues to head the list of top applicants among educational institutions in 2021. Zhejiang University (306) ranked second, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (227), Tsinghua University (201) and Stanford University (194) (Annex 3 PDF, Annex 3). The top 10 university list comprises four universities each from China and the U.S., and one each from Japan and Singapore. For the first time, the National University of Singapore is among the top 10.

Top technologies

Among fields of technology, computer technology (9.9% of total) accounted for the largest share of published PCT applications, followed by digital communication (9%), medical technology (7.1%), electrical machinery (6.9%), and measurement (4.6%) (Annex 4 PDF, Annex 4).

Six of the top 10 technology fields recorded growth in 2021, with pharmaceuticals (+12.8%) reporting the fastest rate of growth, followed by biotechnology (+9.5%), computer technology (7.2%) and digital communication (+6.9%).  The growth in these fields attests to the dynamism of health-related technologies as the pandemic unfolded and continued opportunities for progress in digital technologies.

International trademark system (Madrid System)

Use of WIPO’s international trademark system for the protection of brands surged by 14.4% in 2021 to reach 73,100 filings, the fastest year-on-year growth since 2005.

U.S.-based applicants (13,276) filed the largest number of international trademark applications using WIPO’s Madrid System in 2021, followed by those located in Germany (8,799), China (5,272), France (4,888) and the U.K. (4,215) (Annex 5 PDF, Annex 5).

Seven of the top ten origins saw double-digit growth in 2021, with the U.S. (+32.5%), France (+30.7%) and Germany (+18%) reporting the fastest growth rates. Outside the top ten origins, Canada (+49.4%), Norway (+49.8%), Finland (+43.2%) and Sweden (+42.5%) saw robust growth in filings in 2021.

Top Madrid filers

L’Oréal of France, with 171 Madrid applications, surpassed Novartis AG of Switzerland to become the top filer of international trademark applications in 2021. ADP Gauselmann of Germany (120 applications) occupied the second spot, followed by Glaxo Group of the U.K. (110), Huawei Technologies of China (98) and Novartis AG (94). WIPO received 55 more applications from L’Oréal in 2021 than in 2020, elevating it from 5th position to the top spot (Annex 6 PDF, Annex 6).

Top classes

The most-specified class in international applications received by WIPO covers computer hardware and software and other electrical or electronic apparatus - it accounted for 10.7% of the 2021 total. It was followed by the class covering services for business (8.4%) and the one for technological services (7.7%). Among the top 10 classes, technological services (+30.9%) and services for business (+25.1%) saw the fastest growth.

International design system (Hague System)

Demand for the protection of industrial designs via the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs rebounded after a sharp fall in the previous year. Designs contained in international applications grew by 20.8% in 2021 to reach 22,480 designs – the fastest growth since 2010.

Germany remained the largest user of the International Design System, with 4,469 designs in 2021, followed by the U.S. (2,610 designs), Italy (2,051), Switzerland (1,826) and France (1,584) (Annex 7 PDF, Annex 7). Among the top five origins, France (+69.4%) and Italy (+66.6%) recorded the fastest growth in 2021, as a result Italy moved up from 5th position in 2020 to 3rd spot in 2021, while France moved up from 8th to 5th place over the same period.

Top Hague filers

For the fifth consecutive year, Samsung Electronics of the Republic of Korea with 862 designs in published applications headed the list of top filers, followed by Philips Electronics of the Netherlands (678), Procter & Gamble of the U.S. (665), LG Electronics of the Republic of Korea (655) and Volkswagen of Germany (403). Among the top 10 filers, Philips Electronics (215 additional designs), LG Electronics (+177) and PSA Automobiles of France (+116) saw substantial increases in the number of designs contained in applications in 2021 compared to 2020. Luqom GMBH of Germany – ranked ninth with 216 designs – is a new user of the Hague System (Annex 8 PDF, Annex 8).

Top fields

Designs related to means of transport (9.7%) accounted for the largest share of total designs in 2021, followed by recording and communication equipment (9.6%), packages and containers (8.2%), furnishing (6.9%), and lighting apparatus (6.5%). Among the top 10 classes, clothing (+76%) saw sizeable growth in 2021.

WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

Trademark owners in 2021 filed a record 5,128 cases under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) with WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center, eclipsing the 2020 level by 22%. The surge pushed WIPO cybersquatting cases to almost 56,000 and the total number of domain names covered past the 100,000 mark (Annex 9 PDF, Annex 9).

It was also a record year for WIPO mediation and arbitration cases involving copyright, patents, trademarks and other types of disputes involving technology. The 44.5% increase during the period included 163 mediation, arbitration and expedited arbitration cases and 100 good offices requests, highlighting the strong demand for IP dispute settlement outside of court (Annex 10 PDF, Annex 10).

Domain Names

The accelerating growth in cybersquatting cases filed with the WIPO Center can be largely attributed to trademark owners reinforcing their online presence to offer authentic content and trusted sales outlets, with a greater number of people spending more time online, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Representing 70% of WIPO's generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) cases, .COM demonstrated its continuing primacy.

WIPO UDRP cases in 2021 involved parties from 132 countries. The top three business areas were Banking and Finance (13%), Internet and IT (13%), and Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals (11%) (Annex 11 PDF, Annex 11). The U.S., with 1,760 cases filed, France (938), the U.K. (450), Switzerland (326), and Germany (251) were the top five filing countries (Annex 12 PDF, Annex 12).

The WIPO Center continued its strong engagement with country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs), such as .CN (China) and .EU (European Union). With the addition of .BH and البحرين. (Bahrain) and .SA and السعودية. (Saudi Arabia) in 2021, as well as .SN (Senegal) from January 1, 2022, the WIPO Center now provides dispute resolution services to over 80 ccTLDs.

IP Mediation and Arbitration

WIPO IP mediation and arbitration cases in 2021 involved multinationals (46%), SMEs, including startups, creators and innovators (41%), and Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) (12%), with parties notably from Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America.

Disputes involved a range of IP related areas, with copyright (41%), patents (37%), and trademarks (16%) most common. The main business areas were digital copyright, ICT, life sciences and mechanical patents. Particular increases concerned mediation requests in FRAND disputes, copyright disputes (especially through the co-administration collaboration with INDAUTOR, Mexico), and international IP disputes referred by the Chinese courts.

Almost 70% of WIPO cases included parties from different jurisdictions, and cases were administered in multiple languages, including Chinese, English, French, Korean, and Spanish. The settlement rate in WIPO mediations in 2021 reached 75%. Many parties used WIPO’s Online Case Administration Tools, essential in light of travel restrictions and social distancing.

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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