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Policy

Patent applications surge in Europe

U.S. and Chinese companies help drive growth

by Glenn Hess, special to C&EN
March 11, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 11

Innovation protection
Top chemical and pharma patent applicants in Europe, 2015
Source: European Patent Office

A record-high 160,000 patent applications were filed in Europe last year, a 5% increase over the 152,700 applications in 2014, according to the European Patent Office (EPO).

“The remarkable growth in patent applications at EPO proves that Europe continues to be a hub for innovators from all over the world and an attractive technology market,” says EPO President Benoît Battistelli.

Medical technology was the field with the highest number of applications for new patents, growing 11% over 2014. Pharmaceutical applications were up 10% during 2015.

U.S. companies filed 42,700 European patent applications in 2015, according to EPO’s annual report for that year. The other top countries of origin for applicants were Germany, Japan, France, and Netherlands.

Chinese companies registered the biggest increase in EPO application filings, jumping 22% over 2014. U.S. companies increased their applications by 16% during 2015.

The volume of applications originating from the 38 EPO member states, most of which are members of the European Union, remained almost stable in comparison with 2014, rising a modest 0.7%.

Despite the growth in applications from outside Europe, Battistelli says the number of patent applications made by European companies “remains positive, which underlines the innovative potential of the European economy.”

The jump in applications comes as Europe prepares for a major reform of its patent system. A unified system will apply across almost all EU member nations and replace the array of national patents that companies must now obtain. Proponents view the unitary patent as a way to make access to the patent system in Europe easier and less costly.

The new system will take effect after four more EU members, including Germany and the U.K., ratify the agreement on a unified patent court.

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