The World International Property Organization (WIPO) estimates that last year there were a total of 275,900 international patent filings under the international Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), a 4 % increase from 2019. China led the pack in patent applications (25 % of all filings). The next biggest filing numbers were in the United States (22 %), Japan (18 %), South Korea (7 %) and Germany (7 %). The number of patent applications in China increased by 16 % y-o-y, a significantly larger increase than for any of the other major patent-filing nations. Patent filings fell by 4 % in Germany and Japan.
When patent filings are adjusted for population size, China is still a relatively minor player. Last year, there were just 48 patents filed per million population in China, while the comparable figures were 179 for the US, 223 for Germany, and 390 for both Japan and South Korea. 1,670 PCT patents were filed in Finland, which corresponds to about 300 per million population. Other large emerging economies come nowhere close to China’s numbers. In India, the number of international patent filings were down by 6 % from 2019 to about 1,900 applications. That translates to just one filing per million population. The number of patent filings in Russia also fell 9 % y-o-y to 1,100 patents (7 patents per million population). A total of 700 patents (3 applications per million population) were filed in Brazil, an 8 % increase from 2019.
Looking at filings of firms, the leader was Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which saw its patent numbers rebound to the 2018 level of about 5,500 applications. In 2019, Huawei filed about 1,000 fewer patents than in the previous year. The next most active patent-filers were the South Korean Samsung (3,100), the Japanese Mitsubishi (2,800) and the South Korean LG Electronics (2,800). Of the 50 most active patent-seeking firms, 15 were Japanese, 13 Chinese, 12 American and 7 European. European filers were led by the Swedish giant Ericsson (2,000 patents, rank 6th), the German Bosch (1,400 patents, rank 13th). The Finnish Nokia was the fifth largest European filer (600 patents, rank 39th).
The number of Chinese patent filings has surged in recent years
Sources: WIPO and BOFIT.