WIPO Marks Filing of One Millionth PCT Application

Geneva, January 14, 2005
Press Releases PR/2005/401

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) paid tribute on Friday to the world's innovators on the occasion of the filing of the one millionth international patent application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). WIPO Director General, Dr. Kamil Idris, welcomed this milestone in the 26-year history of the PCT, noting that it reflected a remarkable acceleration in the pace of technological progress.

"One million international patent applications translates into one million pieces of technology that have entered the public domain for the benefit of society at large. This reflects the contribution that the intellectual property system makes to spurring technological development and expanding the pool of public knowledge," Dr. Idris said. The Director General observed "While it took 22 years to receive the first half million PCT patent applications, it took only 4 years to top the one million mark, reflecting an astonishing acceleration in the pace of technological development and unprecedented use of the international patent system." He added "This is a strong indication of the strategic importance of patents to business and broad-based recognition that the PCT offers a smart business solution for companies seeking international patent protection." The PCT facilitates the process of obtaining patent protection in more than 120 countries through the filing of a single international application.

Dr. Idris said some of the world's foremost innovation-based companies have recognized the strategic value of the PCT in their business planning. "These companies use the PCT to bolster their patenting strategies and remain competitive in the global marketplace," he said. The Director General also noted that companies in the developing world are making greater use of the PCT, in particular in China, Brazil, India, and the Republic of Korea, as well as individual inventors around the world.

At a ceremony to mark the filing of the millionth PCT application, in the presence of the representatives of several big users of the system, Mr. Francis Gurry, Deputy Director General, said "This milestone in the history of the patent system is testimony to the increasing importance of intellectual property at a time when wealth generation is shifting away from physical to intellectual capital." He said "The patent system is the best system that is available to encourage innovation which leads to improvement in the quality of life. Without the patent system companies would seek to retain their competitive advantage through secrecy and the public domain would be the poorer."

Mr. Gurry, who oversees the work of the Office of the PCT, paid tribute to the founders of the PCT, describing them as visionaries. He also said the millionth achievement would not have been possible without the dedication and professionalism of WIPO's staff. Addressing the future of the system, Mr. Gurry said "we are in for challenging and exciting times for the PCT for the next million applications."

Industry representatives highlighted the importance of the PCT to their business strategies and the critical role of the intellectual property system in stimulating innovation. They agreed that the additional time that the PCT provides to make final foreign patent filing decisions has effectively served their business needs.

Speaking on behalf of Philips Electronics, the biggest all-time user of the PCT, Mr. Ruud Peters, Chief Executive Officer of Philips' Intellectual Property and Standards, said "We file patents through PCT every day and constantly experience its many benefits. The PCT provides the global community of inventors with a uniform, efficient, single filing system that - immediately upon filing - provides protection in more than 120 countries. From the day of filing, inventors have 30 months to decide if they want to go ahead with the more costly application for a national patent in one or more countries. That's 18 months more than the 12 months they usually get if they file directly with a national patent office."

Mr. Peters said this extension was valuable to his company as it allowed more time to assess the commercial opportunities associated with the invention. "For all these reasons and a few more, PCT is a great tool for inventors in their endeavor to transform their ideas and discoveries into intellectual property rights. These intellectual property rights, in turn, help innovation, the goal we all want to achieve."

Speaking on behalf of Procter & Gamble (P&G), which has ranked fourth biggest PCT user since 1995, Mr. Timothy B. Guffey, Senior Patent Advisor, Global Patent Services, said the PCT has become a cornerstone of P&G's patent portfolio management program. He said the additional eighteen months that the PCT provides to make final foreign patent filing decisions "has allowed Procter & Gamble the additional time necessary to gather the technical, business and patenting information needed to make sound, fully informed decisions." Mr. Guffey said "In our opinion, the Patent Cooperation Treaty is the greatest tool for efficient global patenting and patent portfolio management to be made available to applicants since the Paris Convention in 1883."

"P&G has realized many benefits from our practice under the PCT," Mr. Guffey said, noting that the ability to reserve national phase entry options in all 124 PCT member states for the full 30 month period has allowed the company to enter the national phase in countries that were not of commercial interest at 12 months, but were of interest at 30 months. PCT publication has served P&G well "as a global vehicle to put our inventions- available-for-license before the world business community." He said "These benefits have made the use of the PCT the most cost effective and advantageous filing route for our global patent practice."

Dr. Yoshihisa Fukushima, Director, Corporate Intellectual Property Division, Matsushita Electric, said that as "technology, products and services have come to circulate across national borders…the value of the PCT system is increasing." He said that the PCT "offers an extremely beneficial system for companies with strategies to acquire patents globally." Dr. Fukushima added that "For companies striving to survive severe competition, the PCT system is indispensable in acquiring patent protection globally. As a result of this kind of strategic patent acquisition, the cost for acquiring patents in multiple countries has been reduced, therefore the value of this system continues to grow."

Mr. Song Liuping, speaking on behalf of Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei Technologies, outlined his company's intellectual property strategy saying it was of fundamental importance in supporting Huawei's research and development efforts, which amounted to more than 360 million US dollars in the past three years and occupied over 46% of the company's 23,000 staff in countries around the world. "Since the founding of the intellectual property rights department in 1995, Huawei's unceasing R&D efforts and investment have paid off". By the end of 2004, Huawei had filed more than 5,000 domestic patent applications, of which 1,300 have been granted. He said that as of 2002, Huawei topped the list of domestic patent applications made by Chinese enterprises, and ranked fourth among developing country users of the PCT. Owing to the advantages offered by the PCT, he projected that Huawei would file between 200 to 500 PCT applications annually.

Mr. Kat tae Han representing Samsung Electronics emphasized the importance of patents in today's marketplace and the role the international patent system in helping companies meet their business objectives. He applauded WIPO's endeavor to continually improve PCT services and said that "through these kinds of efforts…we are pretty sure that the PCT system will be the best patent system."

Mr. Donal O'Connell, Director of Intellectual Property Rights at Nokia, said that his company valued the PCT and welcomed WIPO's efforts to build greater flexibility and efficiencies into the system to accommodate the needs of the user community.

The overall top 20 filers from 1995 to 2003 have been : Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. (Netherlands), Siemens Aktiengesellschaft (Germany), Robert Bosch GmbH (Germany), Procter & Gamble (United States), Telefonaktiebolaget L M Ericsson (Sweden), Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (Japan), BASF Aktiengesellschaft (Germany), Motorola Inc. (United States), E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company (United States), Sony Corporation (Japan), Bayer Aktiengesellschaft (Germany), Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (United States), The Regents of the University of California (United States), Intel Corporation (United States), Henkel Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien (Germany) Unilever (Great Britain/Netherlands) 3M Innovative Properties Company (United States), Infineon Technologies AG (Germany), Nokia Corporation (Finland), and Qualcomm Incorporated (United States).

Dutch electronics giant Philips has systematically topped the list of largest users since the PCT began operations in 1978, having filed 11,000 PCT applications since 2000 – the year which registered the 500,000th PCT application.

The PCT makes it easier for companies and inventors to obtain patent rights in multiple countries without risking loss of patent rights that may arise in the process of complying with the rules and regulations established by individual national patent systems which, together with a number of regional systems, make up the international patent landscape.

The largest users of the PCT system have originated from the United States of America, Japan, Germany, the UK and France. That said, the numbers of PCT applications from several developing country members continue to show a marked increase, most notably in India and the Republic of Korea which enjoyed double-digit growth in 2003.

For further information, please consult https://www.wipo.int/pct/en/million/index.html or contact the Media Relations and Public Affairs Section at WIPO: Tel: + 41 22 338 8161 or 338 95 47; e-mail: publicinf@wipo.int.