WIPO Sets Record For International Patent Filings In 2011; LDCs Not A Factor

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The World Intellectual Property Organization today announced that it set a new record for international filings of patents in 2011, in what the UN agency attributed to a focus on innovation. Patents filed under the WIPO-managed Patent Cooperation Treaty shot up more than 10 per cent last year in the fastest growth since 2005, and a Chinese company took top honour for most filings.

Under the PCT, there were 181,900 applications filed in 2011, WIPO said in a press briefing today. “The recovery in international patent filings that we saw in 2010 gained strength in 2011,” WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said in a release. This shows the importance of the PCT system, he said, “in a world where innovation is an increasingly important feature of economic strategy.”

It also shows that companies continued to innovate last year, he said, “reassuring news in times of persistent economic uncertainty.” The WIPO press release contains summaries of the estimated PCT yearly statistics, which will be published in full in April, it said.

China and Japan saw the biggest increases in filings, while the Netherlands saw the biggest drop among the top 15. The United States remained the top filing destination, its estimated 48,596 applications (an 8 per cent increase but still below 2007-2008 figures) amounting to 26.7 per cent of the total global applications in 2011. It was followed by Japan with 38,888 applications (21 per cent growth), Germany with 18,568 (up 10.2 per cent), China with 16,406 (33.4 per cent rise), and South Korea with 10,447 (8 per cent growth). The next five on the list were: France, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Sweden.

The top company was ZTE Corp. (China) with 2,826 applications, overtaking Panasonic of Japan, which had 2,463. Rounding out the top 10 were: Huawei Technologies (China), Sharp (Japan), Robert Bosch (Germany), Qualcomm (United States), Toyota (Japan), LG Electronics (Korea), Philips (Netherlands), and Ericsson (Sweden). Of the top 50 educational institutions with filings, 30 were in the United States. The top filer was the University of California, which published 277 applications, more than most countries. It was followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with 179.

In general, the statistics show that international patent protection continues to be sought mainly by the very largest economies worldwide. Most small economies who are members of the PCT had zero or one filings, with no sign of improvement over past five years, which might raise a question about WIPO technical assistance efforts or simply the lack of a need for protection in those countries.

Numbers for the largest developing countries apart from China also tended to increase. Brazil rose from 488 to 572 applications; Chile from 88 to 118; Colombia from 46 to 57; India from 1,286 to 1,430; Mexico from 191 to 227; Singapore from 641 to 671; South Africa from 295 to 308; and Turkey from 480 to 541. Other notables in general were Russia, jumping from 798 to 964, Saudi Arabia from 81 to 147, and Ukraine from 109 to 138.

Northern African and Middle Eastern countries experiencing political turmoil last year generally saw decreases, such as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Syria. Thailand also dropped, from 72 to 66.

Patent applications are first filed at the national or regional level, and the PCT simplifies the extension of patent protection to other countries by “postponing the requirement to file a separate application in each jurisdiction until after a centralized processing and initial patentability evaluation have taken place,” WIPO said. The PCT system now includes 144 member states.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

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