Every year the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) undertakes an appraisal of the past years patent trends in order to develop a deeper understanding of the world of intellectual property. They use information from patent offices around the world combined with their own data and that of the World Bank in compiling these reports which serve to highlight key areas of innovation.
Patent applications have been increasing year on year for the last six years, seeing a rise of almost a million in that time period. This is a strong performance as indicated by Director General Francis Gurry when he said ‘As policymakers seek to invigorate growth around the world, it is encouraging to report that intellectual property activity saw healthy growth in 2015’ in the foreword to the report. In stark contrast to the global economy trademark applications rose by 15.3% while there was also a 7.3% increase in patent applications.
In 2015 this strong performance was largely driven by the engine of Chinese innovation. Their patent office is the largest in the world, overtaking America and submitting more than a million patents annually. The Chinese patent office took in 84% of the additional applications seen in 2015 alongside seeing 65% of the total design applications for the year. Their importance as a global leader in innovation can be seen in these statistics. They are also one of the leaders for gender equality in IP, with 50% of their patent applications made by women.
The only patent office that comes close to the scale of the operation in China is the US. While the Chinese office were responsible for 38% of the 2.9 million total patents the United States contributed 20%. These two patent offices take up a huge share of global innovation. In terms of patents granted the US sees 25% while China sees 30%, indicating the importance of these two countries to the innovation we have come to rely on. Japan, South Korea, and Europe make up for another 24% of applications and 31% of granted rights. The remaining numbers are split between more than a hundred countries. This shows a strong concentration of innovative power, situated in just a handful of countries.
Another metric tracked by WIPO is the number of patents submitted in a category. Nearly 20% of applications fit into the top three sections: Computer Technology; Electrical Machinery, Apparatus, Energy; Digital Communication. A fifth of all applications fit into one of these categories, indicating the importance of high-technology in the world of innovation and conveying that our focus in these areas is profound. Innovation is one of the drivers of a healthy economy with novel ideas helping us overcome entrenched problems and break down barriers. In the 2017 report we can expect to see more of the trends increasing, as China focuses on its innovative strength, we can expect them to retain their position as the most productive patent office globally.
For more details about the IP report have a look at the infographic below which comes courtesy of international patent agency Morningside IP.