Patent Index 2022

Key patenting trends

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Aidan Kendrick and Yann Meniere

Yann Ménière, EPO Chief Economist (left), and Aidan Kendrick, EPO Chief Business Analyst, discuss the key patenting trends at the EPO in 2022. Increasing demand for European patents has been driven by companies outside Europe. Many digital technology fields show strong growth, whilst patent filings in some areas of chemistry and mechanical engineering are stagnating or in decline.

Aidan Kendrick, EPO Chief Business Analyst

Patent applications to the European Patent Office in 2022 were up 2.5%, at well over 193 000 - a new record. This modest increase was reassuring when we consider the ongoing challenges in many industry sectors and countries last year. Patent applications from European companies are at the same level as for 2021; so it has been companies located elsewhere that have driven the growth in filings to the EPO.

Total applications

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Filings from Chinese companies saw the biggest growth yet again, having more than quadrupled in the last decade. The share of applications from companies in the EPO's 39 member states fell below 44% for the first time. This European share is being squeezed by greater growth from companies based in the United States (24.9%), South Korea (5.4%) and China (9.8%).

Countries of origin

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European industry was already returning to growth even in 2021. Major growth last year was posted by companies from the Netherlands (+3.5%), Belgium (+5.0%), Austria (+3.4%), Switzerland (+5.9%), and Ireland (+12.3%). Growth from most other major countries was more modest (below 2.0%). The drop in filings from Germany (-4.7%) shows just how challenging conditions there have been for companies last year.

Growth rates

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Demand for European patents grew, despite our applicants facing challenges from the energy crisis and semiconductor shortages. We were pleased to be able to continue to deliver high quality searches with good timeliness, with the consequence that some examination and grant work was delayed by a few months. The resulting dip in grants (to 81 754) is expected to be transient.

Yann Ménière, EPO Chief Economist

Innovation across a wide range of electrical and ICT fields was strong in 2022. The top technology field was digital communication yet again - with 16 700 applications. Computer technology was a strong third with over 15 000 filings.

The growth in electrical machinery, apparatus and energy was astonishing, up over 18% to nearly 14 000 - driven in part by the boom in battery technologies. The related fields of audio-visual technology and semiconductors continue to show rapid growth, up one third and one half respectively on 2019.

Technology fields

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Filings in medical technology and pharmaceuticals grew by barely 1% each last year. Conversely, biotechnology was up 11%, its best growth in over five years and confirming a renaissance that started before the pandemic. Patent applications in many of the smaller technology fields, including much of chemistry and mechanical engineering, posted weak growth or even decline.

Top applicants for European patents

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Amongst the largest applicants for European patents, four of the top ten companies are European (Royal Philips, BASF, Siemens and Ericsson). They are joined from Japan by Sony; from the US by Raytheon Technologies and Qualcomm (who almost doubled their filings); Samsung and LG from South Korea; and Huawei from China in first place again, by a wide margin. Huawei alone was responsible for almost a quarter of all filings to the EPO from China last year.

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