Belgian companies and inventors submitted 2,604 patent applications to the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2022, a 5% increase over the previous year and a new record. This puts Belgium well ahead of the average growth of the 39 EPO member states (+0.1%) and the EU27 (-0.5%). Belgium ranks 9th among EPA countries for European patent applications. The European Patent Office's Patent Index 2022 also shows that the total number of European patent applications increased by 2.5%, to a total of 193,460.

The rising number of patent applications - an early indicator of investment in research and development - underlines that innovation remained robust last year despite global economic uncertainties.

Ontex in top 10 of Belgian innovative companies

Ontex top 10

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Patents can be filed for technical inventions in any field of technology, mobile phones to children's toys and from energy production to medical diagnostics.

It can take several years from the filing of a patent application before a product effectively reaches the market. But patent applications are published 18 months after filing, so public patent databases provide insight into the latest inventions.

The EPO's free Espacenet database contains more than 140 million patent documents from around the world, from the year 1782 to the present.

50 years of European patents

In 2023 the EPO celebrates the 50th anniversary of the founding of the European patent system. When 16 countries signed the European Patent Convention in Munich on 5 October 1973, they ushered in a new era of co-operation on patents.

This laid the ground for a patent system supporting economic and technological developments that have shaped our lives and continue to do so today.