16 January 2015
This week we published our preliminary filing figures for 2014. Although the precise numbers are still being worked on, indications are that we saw over 270 00 filings last year, an increase of approximately 3%. This is in line with the trend observed over the last four years with annual increases between 2% and 4%. Of course, there are big differences when looking more closely at the geographical origin of those filings. Those from Europe remained stable in comparison with last year. The situation with filings from Asia, however, shows significant swings: China up 16% to 17% , South Korea up 1% to 2%, but filings from Japan down 3% to 4%. Filings from the US rose by 6% to 7%, confirming American companies in their ranking as the top filers at the EPO (25% of the total in 2013). The definitive figures, with much more detail, trends and company rankings, will be released on 26 February 2015.
Because the EPO is mainly an office of second filing, the evolution in what we receive follows the trends observed at national level some months before. Hence the surge of patent applications in the US at the beginning of 2014, probably in relation to the entry into force of some important provisions of the America Invents Act as explained by many commentators, had a knock-on effect on our filings from the US as well. It is also not surprising to witness the steady growth from China, considering the expansion of their economy, and SIPO has announced that they expect to reach 2 million patent applications in 2020. The PCT continues to be more and more the favoured channel for many users filing at the EPO. Our recent measures to further improve our PCT services (top-up searches, PCT-Direct, freezing of fees) add to the attractiveness of this route.
There is further impetus for all patent offices in the world, but in particular for the IP5 offices as they represent 85% of global patent activity, to be very rigorous in their examination process. I am convinced that high quality patents are the best driver to improve the global patent system. The EPO has obtained ISO 9001 certification for its whole granting process, but we will not be complacent. Continuous improvement is the only way to maintain our quality standards. Patent offices must be more efficient as their resources come from their users. The EPO is wholly self-financed, and in providing the best return on our users’ fees we had record production in 2014 with 320 000 searches, examinations or oppositions handled. This achievement shows that the implementation of our quality efficiency strategy is generating positive results. With the implementation inter-alia of our new career and promotion scheme, we expect more positive results in 2015.
In 2015, other key projects with major benefits for users are expected to be finalised. I would like to mention in particular the Unitary Patent as the plan is to agree on the scale of fees and all other outstanding issues in June at the latest. I also hope that in parallel the ratification process for the Unified Patent Court Treaty will progress sufficiently so that the first Unitary Patent could be delivered in the course of 2016. Momentous times are ahead.