EPO: patent applications up but granted patents fall in 2014

March 20, 2015

More patent applications were filed last year at the European Patent Office (EPO) than in 2013 but the total number of granted patents fell.

Overall, patent filings at the office in 2014 grew by 3.1% since the previous year. According to the office, the figure of 274,174 applications—up from 266,000 in 2013—was a record high.

However, there was a slight dip in the number of patents granted. Last year there were 64,600 patents granted compared to 66,700 in 2013, representing a -3.1% fall.

In January the EPO released initial details on the number of applications filed last year but extended details, including on the number of patents granted and the jurisdictions in which the most patents were filed, were published yesterday (February 26).

Of the total applications made last year 95,156 (35%) came from the EPO’s 38 member states. The US was the jurisdiction with the largest share, with 71,745 applications, while Japan was second on the list with 48,657.

In terms of companies, South Korean technology multinational Samsung again topped the list, having filed 2,541 applications in 2014 compared to 2,833 applications in 2013. Netherlands-based Philips was second on the list, with 2,317 applications to its name.

In a statement, Benoȋt Battistelli, president of the EPO said: “Demand for patent protection in Europe has been growing steadily and is up for the fifth year in a row. Europe continues to strengthen its key role as a global hub of technology and innovation for a growing number of companies from around the world.”

The EPO, which has offices in Munich and Berlin in Germany, as well as The Hague in the Netherlands, was beset by a series of strikes last year. Workers are understood to be concerned about changes to strike regulations, and starting salaries and career prospects.

Certain staff members voted three separate times in favour of strike action. On certain days, up to 30% of staff walked out.

But the EPO denied that the strike action was a contributing factor to the fall in granted patents. A spokesman told WIPR that there were different reasons for the drop, including that many applicants either abandon the application procedure or decide against having a patent granted.

He added: “There are also procedural reasons, including the fact that we only report on figures of published patents. There is a time lag between the actual grant of a patent and the publication, which we consider for our published figures.”

These delays, the spokesman said, can be “up to several months”, meaning that some grants from last year will only appear in the 2015 statistics.