There has been an uptick in IP filings worldwide, according to World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) statistics released in March, with China leading the way. Inventive activity is increasing, with standard patent applications now at 2.6 million annually, up 9.6 per cent.  Businesses continue to boost protection for their brands, with 7 million trade mark applications filed annually, up 6.4 per cent.   Close to 1 million utility models (second-tier patent) applications were filed in the most recent year for which we have statistics, up 18.2 per cent. China accounted for 90 per cent of these filings.  Worldwide interest also increased in protection for the appearance of products, in the form of 1.2 million registered design applications now filed annually, up 15 per cent.   

Trends

This month WIPO released its 2014 edition of IP Facts and Figures*, an annual publication of worldwide trends for patent, utility model, trade mark and industrial design filings. The report identified several key trends, including:

  • China's appreciation and appetite for registrable IP in all its forms has taken Asia to the top of the tables. IP offices in Asia are receiving the highest number of applications for patents, utility models, trademarks and industrial designs;
  • There has been a sharp increase in utility model applications, up by more than 18 per cent from 2012;
  • Over the past four years there has been positive growth across all four forms of registrable IP.

In this post we'll take you through some of the interesting statistics in more detail.   

Patents

About 2.6 million patent applications were filed in 2013, of which, 81 per cent were filed in five offices: China, United States of America, Japan, Republic of Korea and Europe(as shown in the table below).  The stats:

  • Asian offices received a combined share of more than half of the 2.6 million patents.
  • Of the estimated 9.45 million patents in force globally in 2013, 26 per cent were in the United States of America, followed by 19 per cent in Japan.
  • The number of patents in force in China rose to more than a million for the first time in 2013.
  • Australian patent filings are about 29,000, just outside the top ten.

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Utility models

The current darling of the IP world is utility models, which saw an increase of over 18 per cent in filings in 2013. This is largely attributed to filings in China, reflecting increased demand for utility model protection in that country.  The stats:

  • China's IP office received by far the largest number of utility model applications, accounting for nearly 90 per cent of the global total.
  • Utility model filings in Germany, the Republic of Korea and Japan (amongst others) decreased slightly from previous years.
  • Australian innovation patent filings were about 1700.

Trade marks

The trade mark statistics are measured in class counts, i.e. the number of classes specified in each trade mark application. There were 7 million trade mark class counts in 2013, almost half of which were filed in the top 5 offices: China, United States of America, OHIM (the European Union's Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market), France and the Russian Federation.  The stats:

  • China led the pack once again with a 1.88 million class counts, followed by the US with 486,000.
  • The top industry sectors in the US were business, and leisure & education, while China saw more applications in agriculture and clothing.
  • Low and middle-income countries receive higher numbers of trade mark applications compared to other forms IP, with Thailand and South Africa receiving over 80,000 applications between them.
  • Australian class counts were 115,000.

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Industrial designs

There were 1.2 million industrial design applications worldwide in 2013, with China accounting for over half of the total, followed by the OHIM and the Republic of Korea. WIPO also reported on trends in the Hague System that allows an applicant to register up to 64 national/regional design applications by filing a single application with WIPO. The stats: 

  • In 2013, industrial design applications filed under the Hague System increased to 2,990, up almost 15% from 2012.
  • Possibly off the back of that trend, in February this year the US and Japan announced that they will join the Hague System from May 2015 - which is likely to make the Hague System even more attractive to design applicants. Australia is considering joining the Hague System as noted in its ACIP Review of the Designs System.

It will be interesting to see whether the trend of increased IP filings year on year will continue given the current economic conditions.