Thursday, 6 March 2014

Pangloss strikes again

Here we are again

In a recurring ritual the EPO has announced in a press release today "Patent filings at the EPO reach all-time high".

As mentioned in previous posts EPO press releases excite more than inform. A more nuanced picture can be gained by looking to the raw data which can be found here.

So let us analyse some statements in the press release:-

"Patent filings at the EPO grew by 2.8% last year and hit another all-time high,"

Correct, but only if you define patent filings as including PCT applications that will never be subject of any activity in Europe. 

"The EPO granted 66700 European patents, which was 1.6% more than in 2012 (65600) and the highest number ever." 

Correct, and this is to be applauded. 

"Europe continues to be a key market for innovation" 

This is dubious. Looking into the statistics for patent applications [EPO filings and PCT applications entering the regional phase] a slightly different picture is presented:-

Country of Origin 2013 2012 % change
EP Member States 73,420 73,098 0.4%
United States of America 33,834 35,207 -3.9%
Japan 22,555 22,659 -0.5%
China, People's Republic of 4,056 3,732 8.7%
Republic of Korea 6,336 5,719 10.8%
Others 7,668 8,147 -5.9%
Total "rest of world" 74,449 75,464 -1.3%
Overall total 147,869 148,562 -0.5%

The overall total of applications received by the EPO has dropped by half a percent. The total from non-EPO applicants [the rest of the world] has dropped by more than one percent. 

"US with stable increase, Asian countries drivers of growth"

US declining strongly, which matters given its size. Japan down a little, only China and Korea advancing fast - but note the absolute numbers from China and Korea are still relatively low [this may change of course, particularly if the unitary patent comes into effect (see here)].

"In total, filings from Asia accounted for nearly three-quarters of the increase at the EPO in 2013"

It would be more correct to state that it was only the rise in China and Korea that mitigated the catastrophic drop in filings from the rest of the world.

"European industry maintained its patenting activities at the same level as in the previous year, with marked regional differences"

You could say that. 
Country of Origin20132012% change
United Kingdom4,5674,717-3.2%
other EPO member states12,60512,1563.7%
Total EPO member states73,42073,0980.44%

Larger countries declined, smaller ones grew. Netherlands accounted for most of the growth.


Europe is beginning to fight its way back, but "stagnation" is the best word to describe the innovation landscape, so far as this is represented by patent applications. 

The number of patent applications [European and Euro-PCT] in 2013 was over 2% down on the maximum in 2010.  

The rest of the world is doing very well, but are losing interest in Europe [or at least the EPO - it would be interesting to see what is happening to national filings].

Press reports are not always the best publicity.  

If you have a problem, face it.


  1. Any idea why Netherlands has such a massive increase? Did some very prolific filers move their registered offices there?

    1. Well the numbers did drop the previous two years, and even a dead cat will bounce.

      A new posting follows shortly.