2014 was a busy year for the UK’s engineers and scientists as new statistics released by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) show that patent applications from UK-based inventors have increased. Regionally, leading the way were London and the South East of England, whose inventors accounted for over a third of all patent filings nationally. The number of patent applications filed by foreign inventors remains high, with at least 7,850 patents filed in the UK naming a foreign applicant. This figure is slightly down compared to 2013, having dropped by a little less than two per cent, although this still represents strong interest in the UK by foreign applicants overall.  

The figures reveal that the UK’s largest recipient of granted patents in 2014 was global technology giant IBM, to which the UK IPO granted over 300 patents. Dyson, often seen as the darling of UK innovation, were the UK’s largest domestic recipient of granted patents last year, adding around 120 to its portfolio. Overall, the UK remains a popular destination among international applicants, with only nine of the top 50 patent recipients having their headquarters in the UK.  

The UK remains a popular choice for first-filing of patent applications. Over 75 per cent of all patent applications in 2014 were filed with no priority claim to an existing application in another country. It is often stated that first-filing in the UK is an attractive option due to the prompt prior art search conducted by the UK IPO, and the relatively low cost of filing compared to the European Patent Office.  

Perhaps disappointingly, patent applications requesting accelerated search and examination under the Green Channel make up less than one per cent of total patent filings. The Green Channel allows acceleration of patent applications provided that they are directed towards technology which promotes some kind of environmental benefit. This slow uptake may be due to the fact that applicants are simply unaware that the Green Channel option is open to them, or perhaps that there is little appetite for accelerated prosecution generally, including acceleration through non-Green routes.  

The figures show that inventors and their employers continue to place high importance on the protection of their intellectual assets in the UK, driven by the UK’s position as a leading marketplace in the global economy. Furthermore, the figures demonstrate that the UK remains a strong performer in the technology sector. Research and development output from UK-based inventors shows no sign of slowing down, and therefore we can expect a strong performance from the UK’s innovators next year.