Global patent applications hit record 2.9m

Francis Gurry (WIPO Director General)

China helped drive global patent applications to a record 2.9 million in 2015 as that country filed more than a million applications for the first time in a single year, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) annual World Intellectual Property Indicators (WIPI) report.

The 2.9 million patent applications in 2015 was a 7.8% increase over 2014 and the sixth straight year of rising demand for patent protection, according to the report.

Trademark applications rose by 15.3% to about 6 million in 2015, as worldwide industrial design applications increased by 2.3% to 872,800.

The report said that while Chinese innovators filed the most patent applications (1,010,406) in 2015 followed by the United States (526,296) and Japan (454,285), China’s applications remained comparatively home-focused.

China filed only 42,154 applications for patents outside its own borders, while US-based innovators filed 237,961 patent applications abroad.

“As policy-makers seek to invigorate growth around the world, it is encouraging to report that intellectual property filing activity saw healthy progression in 2015,” said WIPO director general Francis Gurry.

“While China continues to drive global increases, IP use grew in most countries in 2015, reflecting its increasing importance in a globalized knowledge economy.”

Resident filings, where innovators filed for protection in their home economy, accounted for around two-thirds of the 2015 total.

China’s patent office received 1,101,864 filings in 2015, making it the first office to receive more than a million applications in a single year.

That number included filings from residents in China as well as from overseas innovators seeking patent protection in China.

China’s total was almost as many as the next three offices combined: the U.S. (589,410), Japan (318,721) and the Republic of Korea (213,694).

Together with the European Patent Office (EPO) with 160,028 filings, the top five offices accounted for 82.5% of global filings.

Among the top five offices, China (+18.7%) had the fastest growth, followed by the EPO (+4.8%), the US (+1.8%) and the Republic of Korea (+1.6%).

By contrast, Japan’s patent office saw a 2.2% decrease. The report said this continues a downward trend that started in 2005 and mainly reflects decline in resident filings.

US applicants filed the most applications abroad (237,961), marking a 6% increase, followed by those from Japan, which decreased 2.3 % to 195,446, and Germany, which saw a 3.6% drop to 101,892.

Though China filed comparatively fewer overseas applications (42,154), that figure has risen steadily over the past two decades and now nearly equals the total of France (46,581).

Computer technology (7.9% of the total) saw the highest percentage of published patent applications worldwide, followed by electrical machinery (7.3%) and digital communication (4.9%).

Around 1.24 million patents were granted worldwide in 2015, up 5.2% on 2014 and the fastest growth rate since 2012.

The report said this was due mainly to an increase of grants in China, which issued 359,316 patents in 2015 to surpass the US (298,407) as the largest patent issuing office.

An estimated 10.6 million patents were in force around the world in 2015.

About 25% of these were in the US, followed by 18.3% in Japan and 13.9% in China.