US leads as European patents hit record

The European Patent Office (EPO) said it published 96,000 granted patents in 2016 — 40% more than in 2015 and a new record — and that patent filings reached the “unprecedented” level of more than 296,000.

The EPO said it received almost 159,353 European patent applications — files for which applicants have actually requested a European patent at the EPO — just 0.4% below the record number reached the year before.

The EPO’s 2016 Annual Report said the five countries of origin with the largest numbers of European patent applications were the US, Germany, Japan, France and Switzerland.

The US led the way with 25% of patent applications.

Of the 96,000 EPO patents granted in 2016, the US led the way with 23%.

The US was also the country with the largest percentage of EPO patent filings, with 23%.

“The 2016 report confirms the positive trend in patent applications over the past five years, while the levelling off in 2016 corrects an exceptional spike in applications from the US in 2015,” said the EPO.

Nearly half of all European patent applications came from the EPO’s 38 member states.

The EPO said: “Patent applications from the US had enjoyed an unusual surge in 2015 (at 42,597) due to the one-off effect of a change in US patent law (America Invents Act of 2013), but have now normalised (back down -5.9%) at 40,076, which is still 9.3% up on 2014 (at 36,668).”

Philips filed the most patent applications at the EPO in 2016 for the second year running.

Huawei was in second place, followed by Samsung, LG and United Technologies.

Robert Bosch again headed the list of companies obtaining the largest number of European patents in 2016, followed by LG and Samsung.

EPO President Benoît Battistelli said: “The 2016 results confirm Europe’s attractiveness as a leading global marketplace for innovation.

“In a rapidly changing political and economic landscape, companies from around the world have kept up their demand for patent protection in Europe.

“While we see impressive growth in applications from Asia, European companies maintain their role as drivers of innovation and economic growth in their home market, and are proving their resilience in the face of unsettled economic conditions.

“We have responded to this sustained strong demand for patents by significantly increasing our performance yet again, whilst maintaining best quality standards.

“These results clearly show that the reforms introduced at the EPO in the past five years are effective and reflect the needs of the European economy.”