Patent filing declines

International patent filings under WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) fell by 4.5 per cent in 2009 with sharper than average declines experienced by some industrialised countries and growth in a number of East Asian countries.

Provisional data indicates that 155,900 international patent applications were filed in 2009 compared to approximately 164,000 applications filed in 2008.

‘The decline in PCT filings is not as sharp as originally anticipated – last year’s results bring us back to just under 2007 levels, when 159,886 international applications were filed,’ said Francis Gurry, WIPO director general.

International patent filings in a number of East Asian countries continued to experience positive growth in spite of the challenging global economic conditions.

Japan experienced a 3.6 per cent growth rate with 29,827 applications; the Republic of Korea (ROK) experienced 2.1 per cent growth with 8,066 applications; and China became the fifth largest PCT user with a strong growth rate of 29.7 per cent, representing 7,946 international applications.

International patent filings experienced a sharper than average decline in a number of industrialised countries.

The filing rate dropped by 11.4 per cent in the US and by 11.2 per cent in Germany in 2009. Declines were also experienced in Britain (-3.5 per cent), Sweden (-11.3 per cent) and Italy (-5.8 per cent).

Japan’s Panasonic Corporation returned to the top spot in the list of PCT applicants, knocking China’s Huawei Technologies into second place.

Panasonic had 1,891 PCT applications published in 2009, followed by 1,847 from Huawei Technologies, plus 1,586 from Germany’s Robert Bosch. The University of California accounted for the largest number of applications published in the category of educational institutions.

Decline and growth

The greatest declines in PCT filings related to computer technology (12,560 applications, down 10.6 per cent on 2008); pharmaceuticals (12,200 applications, down 8.0 per cent on 2008) and medical technology (12,091 applications, down 5.9 per cent on 2008).

The largest growth rates were experienced in micro-structural and nanotechnology (+10.2 per cent), semiconductors (+10 per cent) and thermal processes and apparatus (+7.2 per cent). 

‘This is perhaps the clearest indication to date of the depth of last year’s recession,’ said Karl Barnfather, patent attorney at Withers & Rogers. ‘While we would expect the number of trademark registrations, which are typically linked to the creation of new brands, to dip during a recession, patent filing activity is usually more resilient due to its long-term focus. The dip of 4.5 per cent in 2009 is therefore significant.

‘This dip in patent filings is probably due to cost pressures and a reduction in R&D activity. However, it could also be due to cautiousness about the economic recovery. This could be persuading some innovators to delay seeking commercial protection for products simply because they want to avoid bringing them to market until they are more confident that a double-dip recession has been avoided.’