08 July 2024

Filings of secret ‘National Security’ patents increase 36% in a year amid military tech developments

Commentary by Partner Andrew White has been featured in Law 360, Solicitors Journal, The Patent Lawyer and The Global Legal Post, discussing how an increase in defence spending is thought to be driving a rise in the number of national security patent filings.

Read the extended press release below.

The number of secret ‘National Security’ patents filed in the UK – those deemed by the government to be critical to defence of the country – has increased 36% from 45 in 2021 to 61 in 2022 *, shows research from Mathys and Squire, the leading intellectual property law firm.

The latest figure represents the highest number of National Security patents filed since 2018. The rise is partly driven by an increase in defence spending especially in technology heavy areas such as drones and cyber-defence. Another major factor in the increase may also be the government’s increasing sensitivity around the publication of military-grade technology.

National Security patents cannot be disclosed publicly as the Government believes that it would impact the security of the country if details were available to hostile groups.

The Impact of the war in Ukraine

The increase in the filings of National Security patents could be due to the development of military technology following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 80% of national security patents filed in 2022 were filed by defence companies.

Andrew White, Partner at Mathys and Squire, says: “These patents show how the UK is investing heavily in developing cutting-edge security and defence technology.”

“For national security reasons the Government actively monitors patents related to the defence industry and in some cases restricts the publication of those patents.”

“The UK and other western governments are increasingly concerned about the technical detail of sensitive technology being seen by countries that are not considered friendly. Increased geopolitical tensions and the war in Ukraine has brought that risk to the top of the agenda.”

Out of the 61 National Security patents filed in 2022, filers of UK origin account for 51, representing 84% of all of these patents.

The number of these patents that relate to UK inventions has increased in the last three years, demonstrating the increasing importance of British manufacturers in developing new defence and security innovations. UK inventors accounted for 76% of patents in 2020, which then increased further to 80% in 2021.

Examples of patent applications that can be covered by the national security patents rules include:

  • Camouflage and decoy devices, including those capable of absorbing infrared radiation
  • Communications countermeasures, such as signal jamming devices
  • Guidance systems for unmanned vehicles, such as drones and missiles
  • Directed energy and laser weaponry

*The most recent data available from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO)