AI Drives Patent Applications from U.S. Companies at the European Patent Office to New Record High

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China Advances in Digital Communication Overtaking the U.S. For the First Time.

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Europe remains a highly relevant technology market for U.S. companies, knowing they can rely on a quality patent system that helps them build strong IP portfolios.

The European Patent Office (EPO) today announced that U.S. companies and inventors filed over 46,200 European patent applications in 2019, 5.5% more than in the previous year, according to its Patent Index 2019 (Graph: Growth of patent applications at the EPO from the U.S.). With a share of 25% of all patent applications, the U.S. remained the most active country of origin for patent applications filed with the EPO (Graph: Origin of applications).

The growth in patent applications from the U.S. was largely driven by the rise of 5G and artificial intelligence (AI): there were strong increases in computer technology, where many of the patent applications in AI are filed (+13.6%, following a decrease of 2.2% in the previous year), and in digital communication, which includes the technologies that are central to implementing 5G networks (+14.6%, following a decrease of 7.5% in the previous year).

“Patent applications from the U.S. grew strongly at the EPO in 2019, with the U.S. being one of the main drivers in making digital communication and computer technology the fastest rising technology fields,” said EPO President António Campinos. “This shows that Europe remains a highly relevant technology market for U.S. companies, knowing they can rely on a quality patent system that helps them build strong IP portfolios.”

Overall, the European Patent Office received 181,000 patent applications in 2019, an increase of 4% compared to 2018 (Graph: Growth of European patent applications). The growth was mainly fueled by significantly more applications coming from China (+29.2% over 2018), the U.S. and South Korea (+14.1%). (Graph: Top 50 countries for applications). In the past decade, patent filings from China with the EPO have increased nearly six-fold (12,247 applications in 2019 vs. 2,061 in 2010.

DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES ON THE RISE
Digital communication and computer technology were the dominant fields of technology at the EPO overall. These sectors posted the highest growth of all technology fields, with digital communication overtaking medical technology, which had been the most patent-active segment since 2006. With an increase of 65%, Chinese companies contributed most to the growth in digital communication patent applications, with U.S. (+15%) and South Korean firms (+36%) following suit. In terms of share, China, the U.S. and Europe each accounted for roughly a quarter of all patent applications filed with the EPO in 2019 in this field, with China pulling slightly ahead of the U.S. and Europe for the first time. The top applicants in the field in 2019 were Huawei, Ericsson and Qualcomm (Graph: Leading applicants, digital communication).

In computer technology, U.S. companies accounted for 38% of all patent application in that field and saw 14% growth over 2018. Applications from China (+19%) made up nearly 11%. The leading applicants in 2019 were Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Samsung, Huawei and Intel (Graph: Leading applicants, computer technology).

U.S. COMPANIES STRONGEST IN MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY, PHARMACEUTICALS, COMPUTING
U.S. companies were particularly strong in medical technology, which remained the largest field for patent applications at the EPO from U.S. companies with a growth of 6.3%. U.S. firms accounted for 40% of all patent applications in this sector at the EPO in 2019. Other U.S. strongholds included pharmaceuticals with a 39% share, computer technology with a 38% share, and biotechnology with 32% of all patent applications at the EPO in that field.

The strongest growth among the 15 most important U.S. technology fields was recorded in transport, which includes the automotive and aeronautics sectors, where patent applications from U.S. companies at the EPO grew by 17%.

UNITED TECHNOLOGIES NO. 1 U.S. PATENT APPLICANT
For the second year in a row, United Technologies was the most active U.S. patent applicant at the EPO with 2,813 patent applications, again followed by Qualcomm (1,668 applications) and General Electric (1,247). Rounding out the top five were Alphabet (1,196) and Microsoft (1,112), which moved up to fourth and fifth position (Graph: Top U.S. applicants at the EPO in 2019).

HUAWEI HEADS THE LIST OF APPLICANTS
Huawei topped the table of patent applicants at the EPO in 2019 with 3,524 applications, almost two thirds of which were filed in digital communication. Samsung moved up to second place and LG gained a position to take third. The two South Korean firms were followed by United Technologies and the top applicant of 2018, Siemens, which dropped to fifth place. Qualcomm ranked as the sixth-largest patent applicant (Graph: Top ten applicants at the EPO in 2019).

For detailed statistics, see the EPO Patent Index 2019 at http://www.epo.org/patent-index2019

ABOUT THE EPO
With nearly 7,000 staff, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public service institutions in Europe. Headquartered in Munich with 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 up to 44 countries, covering a market of some 700 million people. The EPO is also the world’s leading authority in patent information and patent searching.

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