European Patent Office: Patent Applications Slow As Rejections Rise 21/03/2009 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate. In a trend appearing in other patent offices around the world, patent applications at the European Patent Office continued to rise in 2008, but at a slower rate toward the end of year. At the EPO, this was coupled with the lowest percentage of granted patents in its history. The Munich-based EPO reported on 17 March that it received a total of 146,600 patent applications last year, compared with 141,400 in 2007, an increase of 3.6 percent. At the same time, with its commitment to patent quality, the grant rate for European patents dropped for the first time to less than 50 percent. Of applications received, 49.5 percent were granted, compared with 51 percent in 2007. Refusals by the EPO shot up by 42 percent over 2007, with 4,500 cases, EPO said. The move toward patent quality was hailed by the EPO as positive for the patent system and for innovation. “The purpose of patents is to facilitate economic benefits for society by creating legal certainty in the market,” EPO President Alison Brimelow said in a statement. “We therefore need to continue to ensure quality in the patenting procedure.” She said several practices instituted in recent years to improve patent quality and reduce workload are “beginning to bear fruit.” For instance, in 2004, EPO began giving early notice to applicants of their prospects of obtaining a patent, which can help companies decide to abandon some applications. And, she said, “the strict application of patentability criteria by our patent examiners has led to more refusals to grant a patent.” “These,” Brimelow added, “are important steps to ensure the relevance of the patents entering the innovation process.” German IP law blogger Axel Horn said in a post that allowance rates used to average above 60 percent, discussed reasons for the change, and argued that trilateral statistics between the leading IP owning nations’ (US, Europe, Japan) patent offices would be more useful. EPO said that in 2008, its patent examiners conducted 120,900 examination procedures, and 59,800 were granted a European patent. Some 22 percent abandoned the application after a first opinion, and 28 percent ended with a withdrawal or refusal by EPO. Applications from the 34 member states of the European Patent Organisation grew to reach 49.3 percent from 48.5 percent in 2007. Germany was first with 18.2 percent of the total (26 653 applications, an increase of 5.8 percent), followed by France with 6.2 percent (9,050, an increase of 8.3%) and the Netherlands with 5 percent (7,289, up 2.4 percent). Filings from most countries continued to rise in 2008 over the previous year. Applications from the United States remained dominant among non-European countries at 25.5 percent, about level with 2007. The share of applications from Japan dropped slightly from 16.3 percent to 15.7 percent, and South Korean applications slowed slightly in the second half of 2008. China increased its applications and now ranks fifth most active among non-European applicants. Most popular technical fields for filing activity were medical technology (17,000 applications, or 11.6 percent of total); electrical communications (14,850, 10.1 percent); and computing (9,520, 6.5 percent). Highest growth was in measuring and testing, electrical elements such as semiconductors and other electrical devices, and general engineering elements. Applications in the fields of biotechnology and genetic engineering, and organic chemistry dropped slightly. By industrial sector, applications from EPO members grew most strongly in electronics such as semiconductors, optoelectronics and electronic devices, but dropped slightly in information and communications technology. Moderate growth was seen in industrial chemistry and polymers, and biochemistry and pharmaceuticals. William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."European Patent Office: Patent Applications Slow As Rejections Rise" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.