14 April 2023

Demand for European patents has reached an all-time high

The European Patent Office (EPO) has released its 2022 Patent Index, which evaluates trends in the number of European patent applications filed across different technical fields and geographical regions. In 2022, the EPO received a record 193,460 patent applications, representing a 2.5% growth from the previous year.

Increase in European patent applications from non-EPO states

While applications from EPO states remained the same, their overall share of filings fell to 43.4%, the lowest they have ever fallen. This is due to a surge in applications from China, South Korea and the United States. China saw the most dramatic increase in filings, with 15% more applications than last year, whilst South Korea has experienced a 10% growth rate.

Huawei was the leading patent applicant for its fourth year

Huawei continued its reign as the top patent applicant for the second year in a row and fourth year overall. Following Huawei were LG, Qualcomm, Samsung and Ericsson. With the increasing number of patent applications from China, the United States and South Korea, it is no surprise that these countries are where the top four applicants are based.

Another interesting trend that the Index revealed is that a significant share of applications from Europe were filed by SMEs or individual inventors, making up 20% of total filings.

Digital communication, medical technology and computer technology were the top technical fields

Digital communication was the top technical field for European patent applications, whilst also experiencing 11.2% growth from 2021. In fact, there has been a continuous increase in filings in this field since 2019. Medical technology and computer technology were the second and third technical fields respectively with the most patent filings. It is expected that these areas are likely to come together and play an important role in the future in respect of smart health innovation.

The technical field that saw the most growth was electrical machinery, apparatus and energy, with an 18.2% increase in patent applications. Another growing field was biotechnology, with an 11% rise in filings.

Sustainable innovation is the future

With many pledges towards carbon neutrality and investments in clean energy, sustainable innovation is becoming a focus for European patent applications. Patent filings regarding battery technologies have consistently been rising, whilst applications for fossil fuel technology patents have seen a decline. Sustainable innovation is accelerating and is anticipated to continue.    

Looking ahead

It is apparent that the rate of innovation and subsequent patent filings are on the rise, with China, South Korea and the United States being partly responsible for the surge. The trends identified by EPO suggest that sustainable technologies are continuously on the rise, expecting an even more staggering increase in the years to come. What is pleasantly surprising to see is the high portion of applications are filed by SMEs, indicating that individual inventors are prioritising protecting their intellectual property. Through Mathys & Squire’s Scaleup Quarter, we cater to the burgeoning startup community and are proud to have worked on some of these applications with our inventive clients.