European patent applications have seen a record rise in 2021 – where companies last year filed 188,600 patent applications with the European Patent Office (EPO) – as the recently published EPO patent index indicates.
US companies led applications with 46,500 innovations (an increase of 5%), with Germany in second with almost 26,000 (maintaining the same level from the previous year). Japan was third with just under 22,000 (a slight fall). Amid this activity is the increasing importance of the European market to Chinese companies (China is now the 4thlargest national source of applications, filing a quarter more innovations than last year, and quadruple the number over 10 years).
Sectoral growth in Chinese applications was most pronounced in products and technology for digital communications (such as machine learning, computer technology, and image processing) – which grew 9.4% last year to 15,400 patents. Much investment is made in this sector, which China leads in EPO innovation applications (six Chinese companies were among the 50 largest patent applicants at the EPO last year).
In this environment, many companies from the Asia-Pacific region are leading the way in technology-related patent filings, including Huawei and Samsung. Notably, Siemens ranked 7th in technology-related applications. But in Germany, patent approvals totaled 16,500 patents last year – 18% less than the previous year.
Antonio Campinos, EPO President – said “the strong demand for patents last year shows that innovation has remained robust” – highlighting a “digital transformation” powered by “the creativity and resilience of innovators in Europe and worldwide”.