European Patent Office Grants More Patents To US Companies Than Ever Before

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Patents granted to US companies grew by 47% with the largest number coming from medical and computer technology fields.

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“The 2016 results confirm Europe’s attractiveness as a leading global marketplace for innovation."

The European Patent Office (EPO) today announced that the number of patents granted to US companies grew by 46.7% in 2016, the highest increase in 10 years, and a new record high. Last year US companies were granted 21,939 patents by the EPO (2015: 14,955). (Fig.: Growth of patents granted by the EPO to applicants from the US)

Highlights:

  • Patents granted to US companies by European Patent Office grew by 47% in 2016 to record high
  • US companies filed fewer applications with EPO after record year in 2015
  • United Technologies, Qualcomm and GE biggest patent applicants from the US
  • US companies strong in Medical tech, Computers, and Engines & turbines
  • One in four patent applications at the European Patent Office is filed by a US company

Patent applications from the US had enjoyed an unusual surge in 2015 (at 42,597) due to the one-off effect of a change in US patent law (America Invents Act of 2013), but have now decreased again (by -5.9%) to 40,076, which is still 9.3% higher than the 2014 figure (36,668). (Fig.: Growth of patent applications at the EPO from the US).The US still remained by far the biggest patent applicant at the European Patent Office in 2016, accounting for a 25% share of all applications filed with the EPO.

Overall, the European Patent Office received nearly 160,000 European patent applications in 2016, on par with the record number reached the year before (Fig.:Growth of European patent applications). There was strong growth again in applications from China (+24.8%) and from Korea (+6.5%). Besides the US, there was also a decrease in applications from Japan (-1.9%), whilst the applications originating from the 38 EPO member states remained almost stable last year (-0.2% compared to 2015). The top five countries of origin were the US, Germany, Japan, France and Switzerland. (Fig.: Origin of applications)

“The 2016 results confirm Europe’s attractiveness as a leading global marketplace for innovation,” said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. “In a rapidly changing technology landscape, companies from around the world have kept up their demand for patent protection in Europe. While we see impressive growth in applications from Asia, European companies maintain their role as drivers of innovation and economic growth in their home market, and are proving their resilience in the face of unsettled economic conditions.”

US companies strong in Computer technology, Medical technology, and Engines & Turbines

US companies were strong in several of the ten most important technologies at the EPO. US firms accounted for 39% of all patent applications in Computer technology, 38% of all patent applications in Medical technology and 36% in both Engines, pumps, turbines as well as Pharmaceuticals. In the company ranking, US firms held many top spots in the main technology fields: Microsoft was the No. 1 patent applicant in Computer technology, Qualcomm No. 4, Intel No. 5, and Google No. 6. In Medical Technology, Medtronic was the No. 2, Johnson & Johnson No. 3, Boston Scientific No. 5, and Procter & Gamble No. 7. In Engines, pumps, turbines, United Technologies was the No. 1 patent applicant, followed by GE.

United Technologies biggest US patent applicant

With 2,067 (up from 1,869 in 2015 (+10.6%) and 810 in 2014), United Technologies was the most active US patent applicant at the EPO, followed by Qualcomm (1,704, -0.1%), General Electric (1,628, +21.5%), Intel (1,268, +22%) and Microsoft (984, +6.8%). (Fig.: Top US applicants at the EPO in 2016)

Engines, Pumps, Turbines technology field with strongest growth from US

Within the 10 most important technology fields, applications from the US grew strongest in Engines, Pumps, Turbines (+8%), where many patent applications in clean energies are filed.

Philips heads EPO company ranking

Philips filed the most patent applications at the EPO in 2016, the second year running. Huawei was the new No. 2 (moving up from 11th in just three years), followed by Samsung, LG and United Technologies. The top 10 was made up of four companies from Europe, three from the US, two from Korea and one from China (Fig.: Top 10 applicants in 2016).

For detailed statistics, and a report on activities in 2016, see the EPO’s annual report at: http://www.epo.org/annual-report2016

About the EPO

With more than 7,000 staff, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public service institutions in Europe. Its headquarters are in Munich and it also has offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna. The EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. Through the EPO's centralized patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain high-quality patent protection in the 38 member states of the European Patent Organization. The EPO is also the world's leading authority in patent information and patent searching.

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Andy Dear (USA)
European Patent Office
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