Innovators around the world filed 3.1 million patent applications in 2016, up 8.3% in a seventh straight yearly increase, according to WIPO’s annual World Intellectual Property Indicators (WIPI) report. China received about 236,600 of the nearly 240,600 additional patent filings, accounting for 98% of total growth. Trademark applications jumped by 16.4% to about 7 million, and worldwide industrial design applications grew by 10.4% to almost 1 million – both also driven by growth in China.
"The latest figures charting a rise in demand for intellectual property rights confirm a decade-long trend, where developments in China increasingly leave their mark on the worldwide totals," said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. "China is increasingly amongst the leaders in global innovation and branding."
For the first time, WIPO has collected data on geographical indications (GIs) – signs used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin, such as Gruyère for cheese or Tequila for spirits. The data cover 54 national and regional authorities, which reported around 42,500 protected GIs.
In addition, WIPO has collected new data from IP offices on certain dimensions of their operational performance, including the size of their examiner workforce, application pendency times and patent examination outcomes. Among other things, these data show that the examination capacity of most IP offices has grown in line with the number of patent applications they have received.
China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) received the highest number of patent applications in 2016, a record total of 1.3 million. It was followed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) (605,571), the Japan Patent Office (JPO) (318,381), the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) (208,830) and the European Patent Office (EPO) (159,358). On a per-capita basis, patent filings in China ranked behind those in Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the U.S.
The top five offices accounted for 84% of the world total. Among the top five offices, China (+21.5%) and the U.S. (+2.7%) saw growth in filings, while the EPO (-0.4%), Japan (-0.1%) and the Republic of Korea (-2.3%) received fewer applications in 2016 than in 2015.
Germany (67,899), India (45,057), the Russian Federation (41,587), Canada (34,745) and Australia (28,394) also featured among the top 10 offices. Asia’s share of all applications filed worldwide has increased from 49.7% in 2006 to 64.6% in 2016, primarily driven by strong growth in filings in China. Offices located in Asia received just over 2 million applications.
In filing abroad, U.S. residents continue to lead. Residents of the U.S. filed more than four times as many patent applications abroad (215,918) as Chinese residents (51,522). The U.S. was followed by Japan (191,819), Germany (75,378) and the Republic of Korea (69,945). Among large middle-income countries of origin, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Mexico and South Africa have a high proportion of applications abroad as a share of total applications – ranging from 27.3% for Brazil to 47.5% for India. The bulk of filings abroad from these countries were destined for the U.S.
Mr. Gurry said: "Filing abroad reflects the internationalization of intellectual property protection and the desire to commercialize technology in foreign markets." Patents for which applicants seek international protection are likely to have a higher value, considering the substantial cost of patenting.
Of the 11.8 million patents in force worldwide in 2016, 2.8 million were in force in the U.S., 2 million in Japan and 1.8 million in China.
The WIPI includes data on the rate of women’s participation in resident patent applications at national/regional offices, using a name-recognition technology developed by WIPO. It shows comparatively high rates in the Russian Federation (38.7% of resident patent applications containing at least one woman), Mexico (36.4%), the U.S. (27.5%), Spain (24.6%) and Brazil (24.5%). These countries have a high share of total filings relating to life sciences such as biology, which show higher rates of woman participation than other branches of science and technology.
An estimated 7 million trademark applications covering 9.77 million classes  were filed worldwide in 2016, 16.4% more applications than in 2015, marking the seventh consecutive year of growth.
“The number of trademarks being sought around the world has increased three-fold since 2001, reflecting the importance of protecting branding assets in today’s business environment,” said Mr. Gurry.
The office of China had the highest volume of filing activity with a class count of around 3.7 million, followed by the U.S. (545,587), Japan (451,320), the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) (369,970) and India (313,623). Among the top five offices, China (+30.8%), Japan (+30.8%) and India (+8.3%) reported solid annual growth. Other offices among the top 20 with strong growth were the Russian Federation (+14.8%), the U.K. (+19.1%) and Viet Nam (+21.1%). A relatively high proportion of filing activity by applicants based in Switzerland (77%), the U.S. (46%), Germany (45%), the Netherlands (44%) and Sweden (42%) sought protection in jurisdictions outside their respective home countries. In contrast, some 95% of all filing activity by China-based applicants was in China, with only 5% attributed to those seeking protection abroad.
Trademarks associated with advertising and business management accounted for 10.5% of all global trademark filing activity in 2016, followed by computers, software and instruments (6.9%), education and entertainment (5.8%) and clothing (5.7%).
There were an estimated 39.1 million active trademark registrations worldwide, of which 12.4 million were active in China alone, followed by the 2.1 million in the U.S., 1.9 million in Japan, 1.3 million in India and 1.1 million in Mexico.
Global industrial design filing activity in 2016 grew by 10.4% to an estimated 963,100 applications containing 1.2 million designs. Design counts worldwide grew by 8.3%, driven primarily by strong growth in China.
The office of China received applications containing 650,344 designs in 2016, corresponding to 52% of the world total. It was followed by the EUIPO (104,522), the KIPO (69,120), Germany (56,188) and Turkey (46,305). Among the top 20 offices, the fastest growth in design counts occurred in the Islamic Republic of Iran (+34.8%), followed by Ukraine (+17.4%), China (+14.3%) and the U.S. (+12.1%). A high proportion of designs in applications filed by applicants based in Switzerland (84.2%), Sweden (66.8%) and the U.S. (55.8%) were destined for protection abroad, while applicants from China, India and the Islamic Republic of Iran mostly sought protection within their respective domestic markets.
Designs related to furnishings accounted for 10.8% of all filings, followed by those related to clothing (8.6%) and to packages and containers (7.3%).
The total number of industrial designs in force worldwide grew by 6% to reach 3.6 million. Around 1.36 million were in force in China, followed by the Republic of Korea (338,234), the U.S. (307,018), Japan (250,819) and the EUIPO (194,781).