The European Patent Office EPO posted record demand in 2017
Confirming Europe’s attractiveness as a leading technology market
The EPO received nearly 166 000 European patent applications in 2017, an increase of +3.9% and an all-time high. Published today, the EPO's Annual Report 2017 also shows that thanks to sustained efforts to boost quality and efficiency, the EPO published some 106 000 granted European patents in 2017, up 10.1% on the previous year.
"In terms of patents, 2017 was a positive year for Europe," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "The growing demand for European patents confirms Europe's attractiveness as a leading technology market. European companies, too, filed for more patents than ever before - evidence of their strength in innovation, and of their confidence in our services. The EPO has successfully responded to the sustained demand with efficiency measures that have increased production, productivity, and timeliness. At the same time we have enhanced the quality of our products and services and continued to reduce the backlog of pending work. The EPO's staff should be commended for their outstanding efforts in 2017, which led to the Office's best results ever."
Applications originating from the EPO's 38 member states grew by 2.8% in 2017 and accounted for 47% of the total. The five most active countries of origin in 2017 were the US, Germany, Japan, France and China, which posted another double-digit increase (+16.6%) and overtook Switzerland to make it into the top 5 for the first time.
Most European countries filed more patent applications at the EPO in 2017 than in the previous year. Among the countries with larger volumes, patent applications from the Netherlands were up 2.7%, after a drop of -4.1% the previous year, and applications from Italy (+4.3%) and the UK (+2.4%) continued their climb. With nearly 500 more applications filed by German inventors and firms in 2017, Europe's largest patent filing country again showed growth (+1.9%). After a drop of -2.4% in the previous year, applications from France were up again slightly (+0.5%) in 2017. Belgium (-1.9%) was the only one of the larger European economies to have fewer patent applications in 2017 after its strong increase in 2016 (+7%).
Among the economies with lower patenting volumes, Denmark (+13.1%), Austria (+8.2%), Spain (+7.4%), and Sweden (+4.9%) led the board. There was also significant growth in European patent applications from Turkey (+74.9%), Poland (+14.1%) and the Czech Republic (+7.9%), albeit from a smaller base.
Europe continues to export more inventions to the other regions than it imports, with the exception of Japan which was approximately the same. Overall, the balance of patent applications has remained in favour of European companies, underlining the strong position of Europe in terms of innovation.
Swiss ahead in per capita ranking.
As regards European patent applications filed relative to a country's population, Switzerland again topped the ranking in 2017, with 884 applications per million inhabitants, followed by the Netherlands (412), Denmark (377), Sweden (374), and Finland (329). Once again, Japan (172) was the first non-European country in the list, in ninth place, remaining well above the EU average of 134. A newcomer to the top 10, Israel (167), nudged ahead of France (157) into tenth place.
Europeans with a wide diversity of technologies.
The analysis of the origin of patent applications in the largest fields of technologies shows that some countries such as China and South Korea are progressing strongly in specialised areas, in particular in the ICT field. Other economies, such as most EPO member states and the US and Japan, showed a greater diversity in applications across technical fields. This pattern is clearly reflected in a dedicated EPO patent landscaping study of technologies related to the fourth industrial revolution: European companies were found to be particularly well represented in key areas with a greater diversity, such as artificial intelligence and smart applications in vehicles, while Asian companies dominate in the ICT field.
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