Rebound in research patent applications in Europe in 2021

Patent applications are on the rise again in Europe in 2021 after a decline linked to the pandemic, the results of the European Patent Office (EPO) revealed on Tuesday. These figures show “a return to normal,” Yann Ménière, chief economist of the EPO, told AFP.

The Munich-based EPO received a total of 188,600 patent applications last year, up 4.5% year-on-year, setting a new record, after a 0.7% drop in 2020 due to logistical disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

On this point: For the first time in 11 years, Swiss patent applications fell in 2020

The digital communication and IT sector filed the highest number of applications (15,400, +9.4%), followed by medical technologies (15,231, +8.8%) and IT technologies (14 671 requests, +9.7%). Traditionally, the number of patent applications is an early indicator for analyzing business investment in research.

Innovations on the European market, dominated by Asian giants

The country that filed the most applications remains the United States (46,553 applications), China for its part showing a “considerable” growth in its applications, which jumped 24% last year (16,665 applications ). The country has “doubled its patent applications in Europe relating to applications of artificial intelligence”, underlined Yann Ménière.

As in the past ten years, requests from European countries represent less than half of the total files submitted (44%), 56% from countries outside the EU.

A situation that is reflected in the ranking of companies seeking to protect their inventions on the European market, dominated by Asian giants: the Chinese Huawei is the first industrial group to patent its innovations in Europe, followed by the two Koreans, Samsung and LG, ahead of the Europeans Ericsson and Siemens.

“There is still a lot of innovation in Europe, but especially in traditional industry, transport, aeronautics, chemicals and machine tools”, detailed Yann Ménière.

To continue reading: China, a new player in technological creation

Switzerland, champion of patent filings per inhabitant

Per million inhabitants, Switzerland remains the country with the most inventions in the world, followed by Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland, according to the EPO, which registered 8,442 patent applications there, in increase of 3.9%.

By canton, Zurich (+8%) is the most active in Switzerland. The canton of Vaud, which has filed a constant number of patent applications, has lost ground, but remains ahead. Behind this duo, Basel-City fell to third place, followed by Aargau, Geneva and Neuchâtel. These six cantons are among the top 30 regions in Europe in number of patent applications.

At the Swiss level, it is the branch of medical techniques that has applied for the most patents. These are followed by consumer goods, metrology, electronic devices and machinery, as well as pharmaceuticals, chemicals and biotechnology.

Read again: Christophe Saam: “In terms of patents, Switzerland is far from being the first in every field”

As for Swiss companies, the Basel-based pharmaceutical group Roche has dethroned the electrotechnical group ABB from first place. The two tobacco companies Japan Tobacco and Philip Morris are followed by Nestlé and Swatch Groupe.

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Rebound in research patent applications in Europe in 2021

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