International patent filings exceed 110,000 for third year running

Geneva, February 23, 2004
Press Releases PR/2004/375

The number of international patent applications filed in 2003 using the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), exceeded 110,000 for the third consecutive year, with users from the United States of America topping the list. Applicants from Japan clinched the second place over Germany, for the first time in over a decade. The PCT is the cornerstone of the international patent system and offers a rapid, flexible and cost-effective route to obtain patent protection in the 123 countries that have signed up to the system.

"The PCT is an effective business solution for companies and inventors to seek patent protection in a large number of countries. On top of its enormous advantages in facilitating the process of obtaining patent protection in multiple countries, the PCT is a huge bank of valuable technical information that is extremely useful in mapping technological trends," said Mr. Francis Gurry, Deputy Director General responsible for the PCT. "Such information is a key resource for analysts in their search for commercial investment opportunities and is also invaluable in enabling technology transfer to promote economic development", he noted.

Inventors and industry from the United States of America (35.7% of all applications in 2003), Japan (15.2% ), Germany (12.7%), , United Kingdom (5.5%), France (4.3%) topped the list of biggest users of the system. For the first time in 13 years, Japan ranked second over Germany. Use of the PCT in Japan grew by a record 24% in 2003. The Republic of Korea (15.5% growth), and the Netherlands (4% growth) also showed a significant increase in filings.

Of the 110,114 applications in 2003, the companies that filed the most international patent applications with the PCT were Philips Electronics N.V. (Netherlands), Siemens (Germany), Matsushita (Japan), Bosch (Germany), Sony (Japan), Nokia (Finland), 3M (USA), Infineon (Germany), BASF (Germany), and Intel (USA).

International patent applications received from developing countries in 2003 saw an 11% increase. The list was topped by Republic of Korea with 2,947 applications, followed by China (1.205), India (611), South Africa (376), Singapore (313), Brazil (221) and Mexico (123). Both India and the Republic of Korea saw a double-digit increase in their use of the PCT, experiencing 27.3% and 15.5% increases, respectively.

The top ten users of the PCT from developing countries include: LG Electronics (Republic of Korea), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Republic of Korea), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) (India), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd (China), Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. (India), LG Chem Ltd. (Republic of Korea), Hetero Drugs Ltd (India), CJ Corporation (Republic of Korea), Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (Republic of Korea), Young Suk Son(Republic of Korea) and ZTE Corporation (China).

The main fields of technology in which PCT applications were published in 2003 are broken down according to the eight main technical fields of the International Patent Classification - a system designed to facilitate the retrieval of technical information found in patent documents - and are outlined in Annex I. Applications can be filed in any language and are published in one of the following seven languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish.

In 2003, the same year that PCT marked its 25th anniversary of operations, membership grew with the accession of five new states, all of which are developing countries, namely, Papua New Guinea, Syrian Arab Republic, Egypt, Botswana and Namibia. Developing countries make up 56% of the membership of the PCT, representing 69 of the 123 countries that have signed up to the treaty.

WIPO continued to improve the delivery of PCT services in 2003 by laying the groundwork for the launch in February 2004 of a fully electronic filing service (PCT-SAFE, see PR/2004/374) and additional PCT fee reductions.

A new schedule of fees and fee reductions took effect on January 1, 2004 and include:

  • a new flat-rate international filing fee at 1,400 Swiss francs. This simplified fee structure replaces the former basic and designation fees;
  • a reduced handling fee;
  • all applicants from least developed countries can now benefit from a fee reduction of 75% (all states that qualify for this and other fee reductions are listed on;
  • new scale of fee reductions of up to 300 Swiss francs for international applications filed electronically.

In 2003, the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office began its functions as an International Preliminary Examining Authority under the PCT. The National Board of Patents and Registration of Finland was also appointed as International Searching and Preliminary Examining Authority, bringing the number of Authorities to 12. The Finnish office is expected to begin these operations in the course of 2004, as is the Canadian office, which was appointed in 2002.

The PCT offers inventors and industry an advantageous route for obtaining patent protection internationally. By filing one "international" patent application under the PCT, protection of an invention can be sought simultaneously in each of a large number of countries. Both applicants and patent offices of PCT member states benefit from the uniform formality requirements, the international search and preliminary examination reports, and the centralized international publication provided by the PCT system. The national patent granting procedure and the related expenses are postponed, in the majority of cases, by up to 18 months (or even longer in the case of some offices) as compared with the traditional patent system. By this time, the applicant will have received important value-added information concerning the likelihood of obtaining patent protection as well as potential commercial interest in that invention.

For further information please contact the Media Relations and Public Affairs Section at:

  • Tel: (+41 22) - 338 81 61 or 338 95 47
  • Fax: (+41 22) - 338 88 10
  • Email:


Annex I

The top ten countries of origin (2003 filings) are :

Number of PCT

Percentage share
of total

United States of America









United Kingdom









Republic of Korea






Switzerland and Liechtenstein






Main fields of technology in which PCT applications were published in 2003
according to the International Patent Classification

Title of Class

[Title of Section]

No. of PCT

% of all

Medical/veterinary science; hygiene

e.g. diagnostic apparatus such as endoscopes,

computer tomographs, artificial heart and kidneys,

prostheses, medicinal preparations

[Human necessities]



Electric communication technique

e.g. broadcasting systems, secret communication,

television systems, loudspeakers, microphones




Instruments; computing; calculating; counting

e.g. artificial neural networks, 2 or 3 dimensional image

generation, computer aided design, text processing equipment




Basic electric elements

Lasers, batteries and fuel cells, integrated circuits




Organic chemistry

e.g. steroids, sugars, nucleic acides, antibiotics, vitamins

[Chemistry; metallurgy]



Instruments: measuring; testing

e.g. analyzing materials e.g. food, positioning and

navigation systems, testing of engines and vehicles




Biochemistry; beer; spirits; wine; vinegar;

microbiology; enzymology; mutation or

genetic engineering

e.g. pasteurization, sterilization, tissue or cell cultures,

preparation of compounds by using micro-organisms,

methods of genetic engineering




Organic macromolecular compounds, their

preparation/chemical working-up; compositions

based thereon

e.g. polymers, starch, cellulose, viscose, rubber




Instruments: optics

e.g. optical fibers, microscopes, telescopes, liquid crystal





Conveying: packing; storing, handling thin or

filamentary material

Containers, e.g. bottles, barrels, cans, cartons, apparatus

for filling containers, conveyers

[Performing Operations Transporting]