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Innovation stays strong: patent applications in Europe continue to grow in 2022

President António Campinos introduces the key trends from 2022

The
European Patent Office (EPO) received 193 460 applications in 2022, an increase
of 2.5% on the previous year and a new record. The EPO’s Patent Index 2022,
published today, shows that patent filings continued to grow last year, after an
increase of 4.7% in 2021 that followed a small dip (-0.6%) in 2020.

The rising
number of patent applications – an early indicator of companies’ investments in
research and development – underlines that innovation remained robust last year
despite economic uncertainties around the globe.

“When
it comes to the promise of green innovation, there has been solid, sustained
growth in filings related to clean technologies and other means that create,
transfer and store electricity,” said EPO President António Campinos.
“It’s this ongoing boom that is navigating the
energy
transition
. Innovators are also working towards a smarter
future, as the fourth industrial revolution takes hold of our lives, sectors
and industries – and spreads far into other areas from transport to healthcare.
We can see this in the relentless growth in patent applications in digital
technologies and semiconductors.”

Growth of patent applications
(Click on the image to enlarge)   

Boom in digital
technologies, batteries and semiconductors 

Digital
communication
(+11.2% over 2021) was once again the field with the highest
number of patent applications last year, followed closely by medical technology (+1.0%) and computer technology (+1.8%). The big increase in patent applications in digital
technologies is permeating many other areas such as healthcare, transport and agriculture.

Electrical
machinery/
apparatus/energy (+18.2%), a field that includes inventions
related to clean energy, was the fastest growing among the top ten
technology fields, driven in part by the boom in battery technologies (+48.0%).
The areas of semiconductors (+19.9%) and audio-visual technology (+8.1%) also grew strongly, albeit from a smaller base.
Patent activity in pharmaceuticals continued its steady rise (+1.0%), squeezing
past transport (-2.6%) to break into the top five technology fields for the first time in
the past decade. Biotechnology
(+11.0%) also continued to boom.

Technical fields with most patent applications
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Strong growth from China and the US

The
top five countries of origin for patent applications at the EPO in 2022 were
the United States (accounting for a quarter of the total), Germany, Japan,
China and France (see graph Origin of applications). The
growth in applications in 2022 was mainly fuelled by filings from China (+15.1%
compared with 2021), which have more than doubled in the past five years, and
to a lesser extent by filings from the US (+2.9%) and the Republic of Korea
(+10.0%).

Top 50 countries for patent applications
(Click on the image to enlarge)   

Although the number of patent applications originating from the 39 European Patent Organisation countries (83 955) was at the same level as in 2021 (83 894, +0.1%),
their share of the total shrunk by a further percentage point to just below 44%.
The growing share of applications to the EPO originating from outside Europe
highlights the attractiveness of the European technology market for companies
from around the world.

In
terms of technology trends, patent applications from the US were up sharply in
digital communication and electrical machinery/apparatus/energy. European
companies filed fewer applications in digital communication, but considerably more
applications in computer technology, medical technology and biotechnology. Patent
applications from China grew in most major technology fields.

Europe country trends: German companies
file fewer applications; Ireland, Switzerland and Belgium post strong growth

Patent applications from companies in Germany,
Europe’s leading country in terms of patent applications, dropped by
4.7% last year, largely due to declines in areas such as transport (which
includes automotive), electrical machinery/apparatus/energy and organic fine
chemistry. Applications from most other leading European patent filing
countries were up, including France (+1.9%), Switzerland (+5.9%) and the
Netherlands (+3.5%). Among other European countries with over 1 000
applications per year, the strongest growth came from Ireland (+12.3%), Belgium
(+5.0%) and Austria (+3.4%). With respect to patent applications per capita,
Switzerland was again the leader, followed by some of the Nordic countries (see
graph Patent
applications per million inhabitants
).

Huawei tops applicant ranking

The leading patent applicants at the EPO in 2022 were
Huawei (No. 1 in 2021), followed by LG (up from 3rd in 2021), Qualcomm (jumping
from 7th to 3rd), Samsung and Ericsson. The top ten includes four
companies from Europe, two from the Republic of Korea, two from the US and one
from each of China and Japan.

Top ten applicants
(Click on the image to enlarge)   

Every fifth patent
application filed by a small company

Patents are not only of
interest to large companies. A significant proportion of the EPO’s applications
come from smaller entities: in 2022 one in five patent
applications to the EPO originating in Europe came from an individual inventor or a small or
medium-sized enterprise (fewer
than 250 employees). A further 7% came from universities and public
research organisations (see
graph Breakdown of
applicants by category
).

Further information:

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