BOFIT Viikkokatsaus / BOFIT Weekly Review 2020/16

2019 figures just released by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialised UN agency, show that a total of 265,800 international patent applications were filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The three largest filing nations were China (22.2 % of all applications), the United States (21.7 %) and Japan (19.8 %). It was the first time the US was unseated from the top spot since the PCT system was established in 1978.

East Asia’s role in international innovation continues to grow. With the sharp increases in the number of PCT applications from China, Japan and South Korea, these countries together accounted for around half of all PCT applications last year. The total European share of applications fell to 23 % as the number of applications from Germany, Europe’s most active patent filer, decreased slightly and there was no significant increase in applications from other European countries.

Although China’s Huawei filed about a thousand less patent applications than in 2018, the company continued to dominate as the most eager filer with 4,400 international patent applications. Next came the Japanese Mitsubishi Electric (2,700 filings), the Korean Samsung (2,300) and the American Qualcomm (2,100). Other top-ten filers included China’s smartphone maker OPPO (5th place), display-maker BOE (6th place), and debuting in the top ten at 8th place, Ping An Technology, a company that develops AI solutions among other things. The two European firms making the top ten were Swedish telecom giant Ericsson and the German Bosch.

Other BRIC countries filed far fewer patent applications than China, and not a single company in these countries made it into the top 50 in terms of patent application filings. The number of patent applications from India increased by 27 % y-o-y in 2018, but only rose by around 2 % last year. The roughly 2,000 patent applications filed by India in 2019 represented just 0.8 % of patent applications filings globally. Notably, Finland continued to file more patent applications (1,655) than Russia (1,218) or Brazil (644).

The PCT system is administrated by WIPO, but patents are granted by national or regional patent offices. A single PCT patent application request can seek rights in all of the over 150 PCT member countries. Patent-seekers must still file, however, with each national or regional patent office.

Countries most active in PCT patent application filings

Sources: World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and BOFIT.

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