By Donald Zuhn --
Patent services provider inovia announced the release of its 2012 report on global patent and IP trends today. In compiling the report, inovia, which produces products for PCT national phase entry, European patent validation, and patent translations, surveyed nearly 150 U.S. companies to identify the trends having the greatest impact on the foreign filing strategies of U.S. patentees.
The 2012 report notes that 22% of survey respondents are involved in the pharmaceuticals/biotech industry. Other sectors or groups represented in the survey include chemicals/materials (16%), electrical/electronics (15%), mechanical/engineering (10%), IT/software/media (3%), and university/association/non-profit (22%). The report also indicates that more than a third of survey respondents (37%) had no in-house patent attorneys or agents, 46% had one to four in-house patent attorneys or agents, and the remainder (17%) had five or more attorneys or agents.
The report states that among survey respondents, "the mood for 2011 was cautiously optimistic" (the 2011 report noted that the mood in 2010 was "mixed"), with fewer respondents experiencing IP budget cuts and a greater percentage bringing in in-house support or outsourcing IP tasks. Nevertheless, respondents did not expect to increase the number of patent families filed in 2012. A majority of respondents cited passage of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, and the upcoming move to a first-to-file system, as the most important trend of 2012. Other key trends for 2012 included cost containment (a repeat trend from last year's survey) and the maximization of IP revenue potential.
Reflecting their cautious optimism, 18% of survey respondents said they filed more patent applications in 2011 than they expected (up from 9% in 2010) and 15% said they filed fewer patent applications (down from 19% in 2010) -- 67% of respondents said they filed as many patent applications in 2011 as they expected (down from 72% in 2010). The 2012 results were a significant improvement over those from inovia's first survey (released in 2010), where 41% of respondents said they filed fewer applications than expected in 2009.
The 2012 report indicates a growing need for international patent protection, as 42% of respondents filed more than half of their patent applications abroad. Respondents, however, continue to be selective with their filings abroad, with 37% of respondents filing corresponding applications in only 1-3 foreign countries and another 42% filed internationally in only 4-8 countries. With regard to the countries in which respondents regularly filed, 21% added new countries to their list (up from 17% in 2010), with 28% adding China and smaller percentages adding India, Brazil, Russia, Taiwan, Chile, Korea, and South Africa (the latter four being new to the "newly added" list). Only 17% of respondents dropped countries from their lists (down from 25% in 2010), with China and Europe each being dropped by 24% of respondents who pared down their lists, and a small percentage of respondents dropping Canada, Australia, India, and Italy from their lists. Respondents who dropped China cited enforcement concerns as the primary reason, and those who dropped Europe cited the high cost of filing there.
Interest in a unified European patent system rose again, with 93% of respondents in favor of the concept (as opposed to 88% in 2010). In addition, the report notes that a large majority of respondents (99%) continue to rely on the PCT for foreign filing. Of these respondents, 72% selected the EPO as an International Searching Authority (down from 89% in 2010), 42% selected the Korean IP Office (KIPO) (down from 43% in 2010), and 12% selected the Japan Patent Office (JPO) (down from 17% in 2010).
With regard to IP budgets, fewer respondents reported budget cuts in the 2012 survey. Only 20% of respondents said their IP budgets had been reduced in 2011, as opposed to 38% and 60% of respondents who noted that their budgets were cut in 2010 and 2009, respectively. Respondents who experienced budget cuts, saw cuts that were less severe than in the past, with 15% losing more than 30% of their budget in 2011 as compared with the 18% who lost more than 30% of their IP budget in 2010.
The report concludes by predicting that "[t]he cautious optimism identified in last year’s survey seems likely to continue in 2012."