Recently published annual reports from the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO), the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reveal year-on-year growth in patent, design and trade mark filings across the world.
With patent applications by UK firms rising above the global average, particularly in their filing of international (PCT) patent applications, it appears that UK innovators are increasingly looking farther from home to market their inventions globally.
At the UKIPO, patent applications filed saw a modest growth of 2.1% in 2014 to 22,929. This reverses the previous year’s decline and is hopefully the start of a steady recovery in UK patent applications.
Globally, PCT applications are up by 4.5%, with the number of PCT applications by UK applicants rising by 9% to 5,282 – the highest level since 2009. Each filed UK PCT application is also now likely to produce 3.9 national or regional applications (with 19020 national or regional applications filed from the PCT system by UK applicants in total last year) – a sign that UK innovators are looking at protecting their inventions abroad. Top patent destinations for UK innovators were the US, Europe, China, Japan, Canada and India.
Overall, the international filing scene continues to be dominated by a handful of businesses, with 19 companies filing over 1000 PCT applications each. Huawei took top spot with 3,442 applications (up by 1,332), ahead of Qualcomm (2,409, up 351) and ZTE (2,179, down 130).
Whilst impressive numbers, the concentration of PCT applications with a handful of top filers disproportionately skews the figures of some countries – for example, Phillips accounts for over a third of total applications filed by Dutch applicants. The UK, with no representative in the top 50 PCT filers, appears to have a broader research base. One area showing potential for growth is universities with two UK universities featuring in the top 50 university filers, with Isis Innovation – the research and technology commercialisation company of the University of Oxford – placing joint 20th and Imperial Innovations 42nd.
Overall, the figures indicate the intellectual property industry – and patents in particular – remains healthy, boosted no doubt by commitments from governmental departments and organisations such as the UK’s Business for Innovation and Skills to encourage innovation on home soil. Whilst the overall effect of recent innovation initiatives such as the UK’s patent box is difficult to assess to any great extent, signs show that IP awareness may be improving amongst a growing number of UK businesses. The UK figures show that more patent applications are being pursued into full patents, with a 3.2% growth in examination requests. Whether this trend will continue, particular after the existing UK patent box scheme closes in June 2016, remains to be seen.