European companies and inventors file more patent applications in 2018

The number of patent applications filed with the European Patent Office (EPO) grew by 4.6% last year, reaching a new high of 174 317 (2017: 166 594). The EPO's Annual Report for 2018 shows an increase in patents filed from all major industrial regions but European companies maintained the lead in their home market, with 47% of all patent applications at the EPO originating from the 38 EPO member states. Asian companies also held their ground, with the combined share of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea rising moderately to 22.6% (2017: 22.1%). The US remained the top country of origin, accounting for 25% of total filings, followed by Germany, Japan, France and China. 

EPO published 127 625 granted European patents (+21%) in 2018. 

This year's annual results are good news for the European economy: Demand for patent protection continues to grow, which means inventors and businesses see Europe as an attractive and valuable technology market to innovate and invest," said EPO President António Campinos. "Europe therefore needs a competitive and robust patent system, especially given that in the EU, IP-intensive industries account for around 38% of jobs, 42% of GDP and 90% of external trade. The patent system helps businesses build a strong technology portfolio to boost economic growth.

European country trends

Germany, Switzerland, UK, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium show solid growth

European countries exhibited an overall positive trend, with most of them filing more patent applications at the EPO than in 2017. With the exception of France and Finland, all of the EPO's top 20 countries of origin posted growth in 2018.

Applications from Germany - Europe's top filing country - increased significantly (+4.7%) to reach 26 734 (approx. 1 200 more than in 2017), their fastest growth since 2010. This was mainly due to an upward trend in the automotive sector and related areas, such as sensors and other measuring devices. Amongst the other countries with high levels of filing activity, applications from Switzerland (+7.8%), the UK (+7.8%), and Sweden (+7.1%) continued to rise solidly, while the Netherlands (+1.4%) and Italy (+0.9%) reached levels similar to the previous year. Declines were reported, however, for France (-2.8%) and Finland (-3.8%): applications from most of France's ten leading technical fields, especially biotechnology, medical technology and ICT, were down, while applications from Finland fell mostly in digital communication, computers and telecommunications.

Of the European economies with mid-range patenting volumes, Denmark (up +14.4% following growth of +12.6% in 2017), Belgium (+9.7%), Spain (+6.3%), and Austria (+3.8%) registered the highest growth, continuing their overall upward trends of the previous years.

There was also very strong growth in European patent applications from a number of countries with smaller patenting volumes. For instance, applications from Ireland grew by 21.4%, largely attributable to greater patenting activity in pharmaceuticals and medical technology, as well as in areas related to smart vehicle technology. Filings from Portugal rose by 46.7% due to large increases in the fields of transport and civil engineering. Applications from Poland (+19.7%), the Czech Republic (+17.5%), and Norway (+14.9%) also grew significantly.