17 January 2013
Today saw the publication of the preliminary figures for European patent filings in 2012, which show an increase for the third year in a row. The total of almost 258 000 was nearly 5.7% above the figure for 2011. Three main regions account for almost 95% of the filings:
The 2012 figures confirm the global role of the EPO, with filings from applicants based outside Europe making up 63% of the total, slightly more than in 2011 (62%). Asian countries again featured prominently (China +11.3%, Japan +8.5%, Korea +7.7%), but the US also reached an all-time peak (63 770 filings, +6.1%). Among the emerging countries, Brazil showed a further substantial increase (+7.1%). The trend towards the globalisation of patent filing strategies underlines the need to improve the quality of first filings in each jurisdiction, before the applications are exported, and to develop tools – such as the Common Citation Document or Patent Translate – that help examiners and users to search and analyse the ever-increasing number of patent families.
In Europe, the country ranking remains largely unchanged. German companies are still the leading users of the European patent system (13.4% of total filings), followed by their counterparts in France, Switzerland, the UK, the Netherlands and Italy. Some percentage increases over the previous year stand out, even if the numbers are low in absolute terms: this is the case with Latvia (+42.4%), Poland (+32.9%), Cyprus (+23.5%), Estonia (+14.8%), Finland (+13.3%) and Portugal (+10.3%). The problems besetting economies across the world have not so far affected R&D investment strategies and the growing emphasis on the importance of patent activities.
At the same time, the EPO has put a lot of effort into improving the handling of European patent applications, maintaining our high quality requirements without delaying the procedure. In 2012, 65 700 patents were granted (+5.8% compared to 2011). We are presently carrying out a number of projects to adapt our internal processes, making them more efficient and user-friendly. This, together with the recruitment of further patent examiners, will allow us to absorb the new growth in filings while maintaining our rigorous standards.
The preliminary figures for last year remain to be confirmed, but past experience indicates that major changes are unlikely. In the coming months, we shall also be providing more detailed information about applicants and the trends for the different technological fields.