World Intellectual Property Organisation facts and figures 2017 - patents & utility model

July 02, 2018

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is a United Nations agency whose mission is to lead the development of a balanced and effective intellectual property (IP) system that enables innovation and creativity for the benefit of all. The organisation is headquartered in Geneva and has 191 member states.

Each year WIPO publishes data showing intellectual property activity from around the world. This year, WIPO has created a series of interactive charts to display its data and these can be found here.

Having analysed the data, we asked IP Director Martin Terry (MT) to share his thoughts on the facts and figures.

PCT Top 10 Countries

In 2017, the UK (5,567 applications) was the 7th biggest user of the PCT system, behind countries such as Germany (18,982 applications), South Korea (15,763 applications) and France (8,012 applications). The US was the biggest user with 56,624 PCT applications in 2017 followed by China with 48,208. Switzerland (4,491 applications), the Netherlands (4,431 applications) and Sweden (3,981 applications) make out the top ten.

The UK experienced a 1.2% increase in the number of applications filed since 2016. Among the top ten, China was the country with the highest percentage of growth at 13.4%. France and the Netherlands both saw a decrease in their numbers of applications filed with 2.4% and 5.2% respectively.

MT: "China has had yet another year of double digit growth in PCT filings and has overtaken Japan to become the second largest filer of PCT applications. At this rate of growth, China will likely become the world's biggest filer of PCT applications and overtake the US in a couple of years".

"China's growth in PCT filings is driven to a significant extent in an increase in filings in the fields of digital communications and computer technology".

Shares of IP Filing Activity by Region

Asia received the largest share of patent applications with 64.6% of all 2016 worldwide patent applications made at offices on the continent. North America came next with 20.5% followed by Europe with 11.3%.

MT: "Asian countries (primarily driven by China, Japan and South Korea) continue to draw ahead of North America and Europe with their consistently higher annual growth rate and the "patenting centre of gravity" shift further eastwards".

Patent Applications for the Top 10 Offices

In 2016, China’s patent office received a record 1.3m patent application. This was an amount larger than the combined total of applications received by the US (605,571 applications), Japanese (316,381 applications) South Korean (208,830 applications) and European (159,358) patent offices in 2016. China’s 2016 application total was 21.5% higher than the total it received in 2015. By comparison, the European Patent Office had a 0.4% decrease in the number of applications it received compared to 2015.

In the UK, there were 22,058 patent applications filed in 2016. This puts the UK outside the top 10. Australia, in tenth place had 28,394 applications in 2016. The UK’s 2016 figure also saw a 3.3% decrease on the 2015 number of applications which stood at 22,801.

MT: "China's vast number of filings is fuelled by Chinese applicants (as opposed to foreign applicants filing in China). The internal demand for filing patents is enabled by strong support and policies by the Chinese authorities as they seek to make China an innovation powerhouse".

"Some query whether the incentives for domestic filings merely provide quantity rather than quality of patent filings".

Total Applications and Growth in Applications

Global total patent applications stood at 3.1m in 2016; an increase of 8.3% on 2015’s 2.8m. This is now the seventh year in a row that the total number of patent applications has grown each year.

MT: "It is clear that with technological innovation continuing apace, the need for patents and the desire to protect one's innovations shows no signs of diminishing".

Swindell & Pearson is a UK based intellectual property firm that has been helping businesses and individuals obtain patent, trade mark, and design right protection for their ideas, innovations and brands for over 135 years. With its head office in Derby, the firm also has offices throughout the Midlands including in Stoke, Wolverhampton and Stafford, as well as an office in Sheffield. To find out how Swindell & Pearson can help you and your business with any patent, trade mark or design right matters please get in touch via [email protected] or by telephone on 01332 367 051.