Who Applies for European Patents?
March 11, 2015
Recently published statistics from the EPO reveal some interesting qualitative indications as to how important or popular European patents might be to organisations operating in particular countries and sectors.
The European Patent Office (EPO) has announced that 151,981 European patent applications were filed with the EPO in 2014, an almost 3% increase over 2013, and a new all-time high. They have broken down their statistics which reveals some interesting qualitative indications as to how important or popular European patents might be to organisations operating in particular locations and sectors. European patents can provide simultaneous patent protection in 38 or more European territories. The report can be found here.
Are European patent applications popular in the UK compared to the rest of the world?
The 2014 data shows that the UK is ranked 16th out of 50 countries for the number of European patent applications per million inhabitants. UK applicants also filed 2.2% more European patent applications than last year. Therefore European patent applications appear to be relatively popular with UK inventors, and are growing in popularity.
Are European patent applications popular with individuals, SMEs and Universities?
Contrary to the expectations that European patents are predominantly used by large corporations, the report indicates that 30% of applications came from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and individual inventors. This underlines the important role that European patents play for smaller entities. Some 6% of the applications were filed by universities or research institutes, and 64% came from large firms.
Are European patent applications popular in your sector?
Over a third of European patent applications related to electrical engineering technology and instrumentation (45%). Nearly 5% more applications were filed in this sector than last year. Nearly a third of applications related to mechanical and civil engineering, transport and consumer goods (30%), and the remainder related to chemistry (25%). It appears that fewer applications were filed in these sectors than last year.
Are they International or European patent applications?
The data reveals that 40% of European patent applications were filed directly with the EPO, whilst 60% of the applications began life as international patent applications. This suggests that filing an international patent application first is the most popular strategy when considering patent protection in Europe. This does not come as a surprise because international applications allow applicants to delay deciding which territories they wish to obtain patent protection in for an additional 18 months.
The chance of getting a patent application granted
The UK was one of few countries in which applicants were more likely (0.5%) to get a European patent granted in 2014 than the previous year. By contrast the average grant rate of European patent applications fell by 3% overall. This may be reassuring to UK applicants for whom securing grant of a pending application is commercially important.
The figures emphasise the growing popularity of European patents, which represent a cost-effective alternative to obtaining national patents in more than 38 European states. It will be interesting to see whether the number of European patent applications increases when the new European unitary patent system comes into force.
If you have any questions concerning European and international patent applications, please get in touch with your usual contact at Swindell & Pearson Ltd or Tim Gilbert at [email protected]. Tim is based in the East Midlands, at our Head Office in Derby.