By Brad Crawford --
On April 13, 2011, the European Patent Office (EPO) reported that the total number of European patent applications is once again on the rise. The EPO noted that EP filings hit 235,029 in 2010, which surpassed the 225,971 patent applications that were filed in 2008 and the 211,344 applications that were filed in 2009, and constituted the highest number of EP filings in the EPO's 34-year history. As shown in the table below, the 235,029 filings in 2010 constituted increases of 4% relative to 2008 and 11% relative to 2009; in contrast, EP filings were down 6% in 2009 relative to 2008.
A graphical representation of the above data can be viewed here. A closer look at this data shows that U.S. applicants were responsible for the largest number of filings on a per country basis, with 60,588 applications filed in 2010. Japan ranked second with a total of 41,917 filings, and Germany ranked third with 33,139 applications filed. Somewhat disappointingly, filings by U.S. and German applicants, while up strongly from 2009, were still slightly below 2008 totals. In contrast, Japanese applicants increased their filings in 2010 by 6% relative to 2008. Applicants in the 38 member states of the EPC filed 92,553 applications in 2010, with applicanst in the EU-27 (i.e., the members of the European Union) accounting for 82,828 of these applications. While U.S., German, EPC, and EU-27 filings were down slightly in 2010 relative to 2008, significant growth over the same time period was seen in China, with a 96% increase, and Korea, with a 20% increase. Thus, the overall increase in filings at the EPO from 2008 to 2010 is largely attributable to an increase in filings from several Asian countries.
As shown in the table below, the EPO also provided filing data with respect to technological field.
The field of medical technology was responsible for the largest number of EP filings (10,479) in 2010, with computer technology (8,257) and electrical machinery/apparatus/energy (8,241) rounding out the top three technical fields. When compared with 2008, 2009 filings were down in all fields except for medical technology and digital communication. The news was better in 2010, as filings were up in all technological fields except for transport, which saw a 2.5% decrease relative to 2009 and a 14% decrease relative to 2008. A comparison of filings in the various technology fields in 2010 and 2008 revealed some interesting trends. The four worst performing fields were: (1) telecommunications (filings down 21.6%), (2) transport (-14.0%), (3) computer technology (-10.2%), and (4) measurement (-9.7%). In contrast, over the same time period the four technological fields with significant increases in the number of applications filed were: (1) biotechnology (filings up 33.2%), (2) digital communication (25.0%), (3) pharmaceuticals (8.2%), and (4) medical technology (7.9%).
Finally, the EPO provided data on applicants who filed the most applications at the EPO in 2010, all of which were electronics companies. The top three spots went to Siemens, with 2,135 filings, Philips (1,765 applications), and BASF (1,707 applications). A list of the top 50 filers in 2010 can be viewed here. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical applicants making the top 50 included Bayer (#10, 1,123 filings), Hoffman-La Roche (#15, 811 filings), Johnson & Johnson (#20, 709 filings), Novartis (#27, 630 ffilings), DuPont (#29, 568 filings), sanofi-aventis (#33, 507 filings), and Abbott (#44, 393 filings).