UK Patent Applications

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Jane Lambert

The World Intellectual Property Organization ("WIPO"), European Patent Office ("EPO") and the Intellectual Property Office ("IPO") have all published statistics on patenting activity in 2019.  According to the IPO's Facts and figures: Patent, trade mark, design and hearing data: 2019, the IPO received 19,250 patent applications in 2019 which was down from 20,931 the previous year.  Just over 12,000 of those applications came from the UK compared to 12,843 the previous year.  However, there was a welcome 6.9% increase in the number of applications for European patents (6,156 in 2029 compared to 5,761 in 2018 (see European patent applications).  There was also modest growth in the number of international patent applications from the UK (5,786 in 2019 compared to 5,634 the year before (see Annex 1: International patent applications by origin (PCT System))).

The modest increase in the number of international and European patent applications has made no changes to the UK's position in the international and European patent league tables.   The UK lies 7th in the world behind China (58,990), the USA (57,840), Japan (52,660), Germany (19,353), South Korea (19,085) and France (7,934).  In Europe, the UK is 9th behind the USA (46,201), German (26,805), Japan (22,686), China (12,247), France (10,163), South Korea (8,287), Switzerland (8,249) and the Netherlands (6,954).  It should be noted that China and South Korea are leaping up the European league with a 29.2% increase in the number of patent applications since 2018 and 14.1% in the case of South Korea.

Internationally, the big news is that China displaced the USA from the top of the PCT applications list for the first time ever.   For some time China has led the world in the number of patent applications with the USA trailing a long way behind but most of those applications were made to China's national patent office.  The significance in toppling the USA from the number 1 spot is that these are applications for inventions that are thought to merit worldwide protection.   It is an indicator that China is climbing up the innovation pole while the USA is slipping down.   Incidentally, the company that made the most applications through the PCT and EPO was Huawei.   Something to be borne in mind by politicians calling for that company to be frozen out of the UK's telecommunications infrastructure.

The IPO's Facts and Figures breaks down applications for UK patents by countries of origin and UK regions.   The UK came top in 2019 with 12,002 followed by the USA (2,151), China (775), Japan (563) and Germany (483).   As for UK regions, London topped the list with 2,579.  It was followed by South East England (1,947), Eastern England (1,642), South West England (1,235), West Midlands (875), North West England (859),  Scotland (734), Yorkshire and the Humber (638), East Midlands (484), Wales (337), North East England (260) and Northern Ireland (193).  Though it came at the bottom of the UK league table, Northern Ireland can congratulate itself in being one of two regions to see an increase in the number of patent applications between 2018 and 2019 and that increase was substantial  (up from 143 in 2018).   The other region was the South East with an increase of 1,944 in 2018 to 1,947 in 2019.

Not too much may be read into any single year's statistics but they are straws in the wind. Anyone wishing to discuss this article or the topics mentioned in it should call my clerk on 07986 948267 or send a message via my contact page.


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