Patent filings at the European Patent Office (EPO) reached a new peak in 2013, increasing by 2.8%. A very healthy 266,000 new patent applications were filed in 2013, up from 258,000 filed in 2012. As for grants, in 2013 the EPO granted 66,700 European patents, an increase of 1.6% on the number of patents granted in 2012 (65,600).

According to the EPO President, “demand for patent protection in Europe is up for the fourth consecutive year”. In the EPO’s view, this shows that companies worldwide consider Europe a fundamental market for innovation.

In geographic terms, about 35% of all 2013 filings at the EPO came from companies located in the EPC contracting states, while about two thirds of the patent filings came from companies located outside Europe. Of these, US companies held the largest share (24% of the total), followed by Japanese companies (20% of the total), Chinese companies (8% of the total) and South Korean companies (6% of the total).

It is also interesting to note which countries increased the number of filings originating from local companies. In particular, in Europe the greatest increase was seen for Dutch companies (+17.2%), Danish companies (+8.1%) and Swedish companies (+7.5%), while the filings by German companies (-5.4%) and Swiss companies (-2%) decreased. Outside of Europe, the number of filings significantly increased for China (+16.2%) and South Korea (+14%), with a less striking but still noteworthy increase in the number of filings originating from the US (+2.8%) and Japan (+1.2%). Most of such filings were in the fields of computers, electronics and digital communications, where US and Asian companies are known to be world leaders.

In fact, in the field of computers US filings made up 34% of the total, followed by filings originating from the EPC states at 31%. In the fields of electrical machinery and transport, Japan totaled 25% and 22%, of the filings, respectively, while China led in the field of digital communication, with a total of 15% of the filings. European filings grew in the field of computer technology (+5%), transport (+5%) and electrical machinery (+4%).

Turning to individual companies, Samsung was the applicant with the largest number of European applications (2,833), followed by Siemens (1,974), Phillips (1,839), LG (1,648) and BASF (1,577). This breakdown confirms that companies in the field of computers, electronics and digital communications are leaders in European patent filings, although of course BASF’s presence in the top five filers at the EPO shows a very significant leadership also in the field of chemistry.

This however does not mean that only large multinationals file European applications. In fact, while 65.5% of the applicants in 2013 were large companies, 29% were small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and individual inventors, and 5.5% universities and public research institutes.

The European territory covered by patents granted by the EPO, with its more than 580 million inhabitants, represents a very important market where valuable innovation must be protected in order to be successful. The above statistics show that companies large and small value obtaining patent protection in Europe and value the work done by the EPO in granting such patent protection, as is also shown by the relatively proportional increase in patent grants. Such companies should continue pursuing patent protection in Europe in order to create, stabilize or increase their market position in Europe.

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