EPO: Filings rebound after crisis

The European Patent Office (EPO) announced its statistics for 2010 last Tuesday. After a slump in filings in 2009, the number of filings has rebounded and surpassed the pre-crisis level; in fact, the 235,000 applications received in 2010 constitute the largest number of applications filed ever in the 34-year history of the EPO.

43% of applications resulted in granted patents (obviously not of the applications filed in 2010...).

The number of patents granted per country of residence of the applicant also shows a familiar picture (see the IPKat's take on the 2009 statistics here). The top ten nations in terms of patents granted are Germany (12,553), USA (12,506), Japan (10,580), France (4,536), Switzerland (2,389), Italy (2,287), UK (1,857), the Netherlands (1,725), Sweden (1,467), South Korea (1,392) and Canada (730).

While granted patents are an imperfect measure of the innovative force of a country's economy (and the numbers for Japan and Germany inflated because of peculiar employee-invention laws), it is nonetheless striking how large the differences between similarly situated European countries can be. While France's population (65 million) and Gross Domestic Product ($ 2.5 trillion) are roughly 50% larger than Spain's (46 million and $ 1.4, acc. to CIA Factbook), France was granted 4,536 patents in 2010, while Spain (better: applicants from Spain) received a mere 393. That's less than 10% of France's rate. And don't tell me it's all due to the fact that Spanish is not an official language at the EPO... or compare Norway (4.7 million, $ 413 billion) to Switzerland (7.6 million, $ 522 billion). Both are well-off European nations with a similar per capita GDP. But Switzerland received 314 patents per 1 million inhabitants, Norway 39. Let's hope that oil lasts for a while...

Finally, the top ten applicants.

Many more tables and graphs on the EPO's website.
EPO: Filings rebound after crisis EPO: Filings rebound after crisis Reviewed by Mark Schweizer on Thursday, June 02, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. But how many of the extra applications were divisionals?

  2. It would be interesting to know how much of the increase in filings is due to the one-off filing of divisional applications before the deadline of 1 October 2010. This was the end of the six month grace period for filing divisional applications where the new 2 year time limit under amended Rule 36(1) EPC expired before this date. This may well run into some thousands I suspect. Deduct these and the increase might be more modest or even disappear altogether. The figures from 2011 will probably give more realistic indications of any underlying trends in filing numbers.

    It would also be of interest to see how the new emerging Asian economies (India and China in particular) are contributing to the increases.

  3. The introduction of a deadline for filing divisional applications (two years from issuance of a first communication from the Examining Division) which came into force during 2010 will, no doubt, have had a significant effect on the numbers of applications filed in 2010. The comparison with previous years is, therefore, slightly misleading.

  4. So polite not to comment on the pathetic showing from the UK.

  5. the commentators pointing out that the increase may be (partially) due to the end of the grace period for divisional filings, which ended 1 October 2010, may be on to something. I cannot find a break-down between different type of applications in the EPO data published on the website. Should someone at the EPO have the data, feel free to email or comment.

  6. A comment on a previous post on the IPKat estimated the number at about 10,000 divisional applications filed in September 2010, which of course does not include those filed between the entry into force of the new Rule 36(1) EPC on 1 April 2010 and August 2010.


    This more or less wipes out any increase over 2008, but probably still represents an improvement over deepest year of the crisis (2009)

  7. What are "international filings under the PCT" - does this mean that they are including in the statistics PCT filings which never enter the Regional Phase? If so, shame on you EPO!

  8. Did the decision to impose the new divisionals deadlines coincide with the EPO realising it had a hole in its pensions budget, I wonder? Even if not, a great law for a recessionary period.

  9. 1) The number of divisionals was more than 10,000. The last figure I heard was about 15,000.

    2)Every year except 1991-1995, 2002, and 2009 has been a record year for filings at the EPO.

  10. Anonymous said:
    "What are "international filings under the PCT" - does this mean that they are including in the statistics PCT filings which never enter the Regional Phase? If so, shame on you EPO!"

    The answer is yes.

    This was vaguely acceptable as indicating workload when the EPO was the world's whipping boy and acted as ISA and IPEA for most PCT applications wherever filed; but nowadays is a totally misleading statistic. More useful statistics would be total number of direct European applications filed plus Euro-PCT entries plus PCT searches requested.

    Of course even that misleads, as leaving out searches done for national patent offices etcetera, and of course more useful statistics may reveal too much of the workings of the EPO.

  11. This is all good money-making work all round for the IP world and those commentators being critical of the EPO should take a look at themselves. What matters to the commentators is the politics behind the generation of the statistics and not the international competitive environment generating these filings and what it shows about the dire state of the prospects for the UK economy.


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