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Increased patent filings in North East Asian countries (mainly China and the Republic of Korea [ROK]) and the United States of America (USA) drove growth in worldwide filing of patent applications, which topped 1.76 million in 2006, representing a 4.9 percent increase over 2005, according to the 2008 edition of the World Patent Report of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The report, based on 2006 figures (the last year for which complete worldwide statistics are available) also shows that patents granted worldwide increased by 18 percent with some 727,000 patents granted in 2006 alone. The substantial increase in patents granted is due, in part, to efforts by patent offices to reduce backlogs as well as the substantial increase in the number of patents granted by
The director general of WIPO, Dr. Kamil Idris, observed “A major increase in innovative activity in
Francis Gurry, WIPO deputy director general who oversees the organization’s work relating to patents, said that, given its growing political importance, a better understanding of the “evolution and use of the patent system is critical to understanding policy debates including the role of intellectual property in economic growth and development, the relationship between IP policy and other key public policy issues, such as health and the environment, and to initiatives to improve the efficiency of the patent system itself.” He added, that “the report, which is part of WIPO’s on-going commitment to improve statistical information on patent activity, allows users to analyze and monitor the latest trends in patent activity based on objective and detailed information.”
Growing Internationalization of Patent Activity
While statistics reveal patterns of concentration in patent activity, they also point to a growing tendency for applicants to file their applications in multiple countries. This trend towards increasing internationalization of patent activity is demonstrated by the growth in international filings through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) and in non-resident patent filings. “The PCT is the most important route for international patent filings, with an estimated 49 percent of all international patent applications being filed through the PCT,” said Gurry, noting efforts to further simplify use of the PCT and WIPO’s continuing drive to improve efficiency.
The number of international patent filings submitted via the PCT in 2007 is estimated to be 158,400, representing a 5.9 percent increase over the previous year. The
The proportion of worldwide patent filings by non-residents increased from 35.7 percent in 1995 to 43.6 percent in 2006. In addition, between 2005 and 2006, total non-resident patent filings increased by 7.4 percent, in contrast to total resident filings which increased by 3.1 percent. Non-resident filings originating from US applicants accounted for 21.9 percent of the total non-resident filings, followed by
The level of internationalization varies across countries and economies. The share of non-resident patent filings is very high in the patent offices of Hong Kong (SAR)
Patenting activity in emerging countries also increased in 2006. The patent offices of
Trends in Patent Activity
The share of total worldwide patent applications submitted by applicants from the top 10 countries of origin (i.e. the countries in which applicants reside) increased from 82.4 percent (2000) to 85.2 percent (2006). Applicants from Japan (514,047 applications), the USA (390,815 applications), the ROK (172,709 applications), Germany (130,806 applications) and China (128,850 applications) accounted for 76 percent of the total number of patent applications filed worldwide in 2006. Significant growth in the number of patent applications filed domestically fuelled China’s share of total worldwide patent filings which rose from 1.8 percent to 7.3 percent during the period 2000-2006. Between 2005 and 2006, the total number of patent applications filed worldwide by applicants from China, the ROK and the USA increased by 32.1 percent, 6.6 percent and 6.7 percent respectively.
In terms of offices, in 2006, for the first time since 1963, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) received the largest number of patent applications (425,966), followed by the Japan Patent Office (408,674). The patent offices of
The period 2000-2006, also saw a significant increase in the number of filings originating from
Although the number of patent applications filed across the world has steadily increased, the rate of increase is below that observed for other economic indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) and trade. That said, research and development (R&D) expenditure and volume of patent filings are highly correlated. Countries with a high level of R&D investment tend to have a higher number of patent filings per resident as seen in the
The bulk – some 73 percent – of the 727,000 patents granted across the world in 2006 were concentrated in a small number of countries of origin – Japan, the USA, the ROK and Germany. Between 2000 and 2006, the number of patents granted to applicants from China and the ROK grew by an annual average of 26.5 percent and 23.2 percent respectively.
Ownership of Patents in Force
In 2005 (the latest year for which technology data are available), the most intense patenting activity is evident in the following sectors: computer technology (144,594), telecommunications (116,770), and electrical machinery (121,350) technologies. Between 2001 and 2005, patent filings in computer technology, optics, and semiconductors grew by 5.3 percent, 5.0 percent and 4.9 percent, a year, respectively. There was a modest increase in pharmaceuticals filings (1.7 percent) and a decrease in biotechnology filings (-2.7 percent).
Recent pressures on energy resources have boosted patenting activity in the energy sector, in particular in relation to solar (thermal and photo) energy, fuel cells and wind energy. Applicants from
Patent Offices Workload
In 2006, major patent offices continued to be challenged with significant backlogs in applications to be processed. Gurry said “while the report underlines promising trends in the use of the patent system, it also points to the need to find solutions to address the persistent backlogs in workload at many IP offices around the world.” The number of patent applications pending examination at the USPTO rose to 1,051,502 in 2006. Similarly, in recent years the JPO has experienced a sharp rise in the number of pending applications with some 836,801 patent applications outstanding at the end of 2006. This is largely due to the introduction of a reduced time limit for request for examination – from seven years to three years – which is likely to increase the examination workload at the JPO for some years. The number of pending applications at other large patent offices, such as the European Patent Office,