The number of patents filed at the European Patent Office (EPO) by UK companies rose by 4.8 per cent in 2014 to 6,823, a sign of sustained investment in research and development activity according to Withers & Rogers.
The IP law firm said the increase is greater than the 3.1 per cent overall growth in filings at the EPO in 2014 and above the 1.2 per cent average across the 38 EPO member states.
The strongest growth in filings at the EPO last year came from China (up 18.2 per cent on the previous year) and the US (up 6.8 per cent on the previous year).
In a statement, Karl Barnfather, chairman of Withers & Rogers, said: ’These figures make positive reading for the UK and due to the time it takes for research and development activity to translate into patent filings, the growth in filings last year is indicative of sustained investment in innovation over the last couple of years.
‘It is also possible that the tax relief offered by Patent Box in the UK is providing further encouragement to file. Additionally, the soon to be introduced Unitary Patent providing patent protection across a large part of Europe may be an incentive for increased filings.
‘Some companies might be cleverly enjoying the two-fold benefits of filing for pan-European patent protection at the EPO, while also benefiting from tax relief on patent-related profits linked to Patent Box.
‘Overall, the strengthening UK economy and improving forecasts could also be helping to drive investment in R&D. In particular, the recent upturn in growth in the UK’s manufacturing sector will inevitably help to increase business confidence and inspire R&D activity.’
The top filer from the UK was Unilever, which filed 226 patent applications at the EPO in 2014, although this represents a small decrease on the number filed by the company in the previous year (278).
The second and third most prolific filers from the UK were Rolls-Royce and BT, both of which increased their filings in 2014 compared to the previous year.
Rolls-Royce filed 182 patent applications at the EPO in 2014, up from 133 the previous year, and BT plc filed 141 applications, up from 105 the previous year.
This article originally appeared in MWP Advanced Manufacturing, a sister publication to The Engineer.