Global Patent Filings hit 1 Million mark in 2012: China Leads the Pack

The World Intellectual Property Organization released its 2013 edition of the World Intellectual Property Indicators recently. The Report highlights a couple of firsts occurring in the global IP landscape. In 2012, for the first time, the total number of patent grants issued worldwide exceeded the one million mark and an estimated 8.66 million patents were in force worldwide. Patent filings saw a growth of 9.2% in 2012, the highest in two decades. The number of industrial designs contained in applications grew by 17%, which is the highest growth on record.

Innovation Powerhouse Much?

China topped the ranking for both the source (filings by China) and the destination (filed in China) for patents, utility models, trademarks and industrial designs. It recorded a double digit growth of 24%, making its share in the mentioned IPs the largest worldwide. The patent filings are mostly in material metallurgy technologies, a testament to its intensive manufacturing industry.

India reported a 3.9% growth in patent filings. The report avers that the applications filed before the Indian office concentrated more in the organic fine chemistry field. However, India is not a frontrunner in any of the broad four fields of patents- Digital Communication, Computer Technology, Transport, Basic Materials chemistry.

On the brighter (and greener) side, patent filings for energy-related technologies grew by 5.3% in 2012. Solar energy technologies enjoy the largest share, followed by fuel cell technology and wind energy.

Interestingly, the report observes that the majority of patent filings occurred at the IP offices of high-income countries, whereas the middle and low income countries accounted for bulk of trademark and industrial design registrations. The report also revealed the average age of patents in force. For the Indian Office it was 11 years, compared to Canada’s 12.3 years, which was the highest on the list. The US had an average age of 10 years.

The total number of classes specified in trademark applications (i.e., class counts) filed worldwide grew by 6%. This was again attributed to China’s substantial increase in filings. The total number of plant variety applications reached a new record at 14,319, but the growth rate of 1.8 per cent in 2012 was modest compared to 7.5 per cent the previous year. International Filings under the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the Madrid Protocol also saw a substantial increase.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said in a news release,“Following the 2009 financial crisis, global intellectual property (IP) filings and global economic output have followed diverging paths.” “While economic recovery since the 2009 crisis has been uneven and has failed to bring down unacceptably high levels of unemployment, IP filings have increased at a faster rate than before the crisis.”

“As a broad generalisation, patent applications tend to track economic performance,” Gurry explained, rather optimistically. He also stated, “More specifically, China is still very much in a development mode, it is still developing its expertise in this area.”

However, not many share the optimism that the WIPO Report would have you believe. Arguably, the Chinese surge in filings could also mean an increase in patents combined with lower-value utility models. China has notoriously high levels of trademark squatting, which may be a factor in the rise of trademark registrations.

In yet another report, Thomson Reuters unveiled the results of its analysis of patent activity for inventions originating in India in a 2013 State of Innovation India report. This India centric report revealed that the largest sectors of innovation activity by Indian companies are Pharmaceuticals and Transportation, followed by Computing & Control and Communications. The Report stated that organic pharmaceutical is the most prevalent area of innovation which coincides with the WIPO IP indications of Indian innovations majorly in organic fine chemistry. According to a senior patent analyst at Thomson Reuters, “This year’s report confirms the powerhouse India has become in the pharmaceutical sector, as more drug manufacturing, especially for generics, occurs here. There were more than 1,000 inventions related to organic pharmaceuticals last year, and we anticipate this pace to continue in the future.”


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