The importance of patents to the European economy

25 October 2016 - No comments »

epo_battistelli_24334_rgb-648x432Today the EPO and EUIPO published their latest study on the value of Intellectual Property Intensive (IPR) industries. It is the second such joint report carried out that assesses the value of industries that intensively use patents, copyright and trademarks, among others. The results show that once again, IPR intensive industries are playing a defining role in maintaining a competitive European economy.

We know, of course, that European enterprises and innovators are more and more aware of the fundamental role that patents in particular can have for their own individual success. Increasing patent applications to the EPO from within Europe, a net export of patents to other parts of the world and high numbers of patent applications per inhabitant in European countries all attest to the value that European businesses place upon legally-robust patents. But it is this study that measures how that activity is translating in terms of the wider European economy.  Put simply, the impact of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) on the EU’s prosperity is little short of remarkable.

The study finds that 42% (€ 5.7 trillion) of annual GDP and 90% of the EU’s trade with the rest of the world originate from IPR intensive industries. 82 million jobs (both direct and indirect) are also the result of these sectors, and are marked by the prevalence of higher than average wages. The story is much the same with patent intensive industries: the generation of over €2 trillion in GDP; over a trillion euros contributed in both EU imports and exports; and, the direct employment of over 22 million citizens. These are not just the results of an economy that has simply made use of Intellectual Property; they are the hall marks of a region whose very prosperity is underpinned by IPR intensive industries.

The value of this study is therefore clear. The data provides in depth facts and figures for policy makers throughout Europe. It is essential reference material for all those who play a role in IP policy and will ensure that any debate on innovation and creativity is based on the latest sound evidence. Equipped with such an analysis, IP stakeholders can work to safeguard an efficient and responsive IP system that responds to the needs of users. Secondly, the findings serve as pertinent reminders to organisations who administer IP, such as the EPO, that we must continue to provide the very best services and products. In the end, the findings highlight that it is not just innovators themselves who rely on patent protection and other forms of intellectual property, but the European economy as a whole.

At the EPO, we have gone to great lengths to support European innovators – and the economy – by providing legally robust patents of the highest quality and supported by a business orientated approach. Controlled costs, quality assurance, leading free patent information and rising productivity are just some of the measures we use to deliver the patents that applicants need. And more recently, we have focused on greater timeliness so that applicants and inventors can obtain patent protection more rapidly.

Equally, it is of the utmost importance for the European economy to continue to increase its attractiveness in the protection of IP rights. A major expectation of the user community is that the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court package will be implemented rapidly and we have recently had some very good news from both Slovenia and Italy in their ratification processes. We therefore hope that decision makers in Europe will continue to treat this dossier with the diligence necessary. In the meantime, the EPO is ready to administer the first patent as soon as the UPC becomes a legal reality.

The EPO will also continue to make its own improvements to offer better and better services to our applicants. After all, it was by producing this second report that we were able to see that IPR intensive industries have increased their contributions to the generation of GDP and employment in the EU in recent times.  It is our job to support innovators so that any future studies will be able to report the same trend for many years to come.

Benoît Battistelli

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