EPO Patent Index 2020: 0.7% Decrease in Filing amid Pandemic


With the increase in patent filing around the world, the European Patent Office (EPO) comes up with the Patent Index 2020 addressing the filing activity going on at the EPO office in the last year. The year 2020 mostly went into tackling the pandemic, the effect of which has been substantially visible with the decrease on the country-to-country basis. This comprehensive index compares the total filing activity being done at the EPO office and also with the country-wise filing statistic. Nevertheless, in 2020, the EPO received 180,250 applications, just 0.7% down on 2019 despite the pandemic. However, this conceals contrasting trends, with falls in demand for patent applications from some countries and in some technologies offset by growth elsewhere. 

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Reduction in Filing

The filing shows a slight reduction in the number of filings as compared to filing in 2019. A slight reduction of 0.7% was noticed in 2020 with just over 180,000 patent applications being filed. United States holds the top position among individual countries with 44,293 EPO patent filing. In the ranking, the US, Germany, and Japan hold the first, second, and third positions despite the decrease in filing for all three countries. The US, Germany, and Japan show a reduction of 4.1%, 3%, and 1.1% respectively.

In the Index, the performance of China was much better making its efforts in maintaining a good position as a global tech giant. Despite the decrease being seen among major economies, China strides its way with an increase of 9.9% in 2020 as compared to the filing in 2019. China with 13,432 patents was ranked fourth place keeping it ahead of France with 10,554 patents. France also witnessed an increase of 3% in the filing. Whereas, South Korea also saw a steep rise in the filing, with an increase of 9.2% application filed as compared to 2019, accounting for 9,106 patent applications.

Rise of China

With China making its major mark as a global tech giant, the major increase in the filing was done due to the filing activity of the telecom firm Huawei. Huawei has been ranked second in the Patent Index among all entities filing for the patent. With 3,113 patents, it has achieved almost a quarter of all the Chinese filing at the EPO. Nevertheless, Huawei was ranked first among the entity filing in 2019, therefore, the filing for Huawei has decreased in 2020. The heavy filing has marked Huawei being the undisputed leader in the 5G wireless technology and its patent portfolio is proving to be increasingly valuable. Huawei is also increasingly marking its way in building technical standards for 5G wireless systems.

It can also be noted that the huge increase in the filing can be attributed to the efforts being undertaken by China’s communist government for democratizing intellectual property rights and protection. China's expansion in the field of patentability in areas of software and business method patents will prove to be a major role in China becoming the global leader. China has also passed the Fourth Amendment to Chinese Patent Law which will introduce punitive damages and also establish the Patent Linkage system. Taking USPTO into consideration, Chinese patent and trademark filing have seen a huge increase in the year which has been attributed to various forms of government intervention at various levels. These filings have been supported by government subsidies to the patent and trademark filing activities. Some of these non-market factors gave a huge boost to filings but on the other hand, it also results in more frivolous filings in patent and trademark space. By the year 2025, the Chinese government announced to eliminate all the patent filing subsidy programs put in place.   

Other Sectors

Talking about the sectors, the Index shows the sectors of which there has been a large number of filings Medical technology with 14, 295 patent filings took up the top spot and overtook digital communication with 14,122 patent filings. Mostly the top 10 technical fields for 2019 have been the same as that of 2020. The medical technology taking up the top spot can be attributed to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the medical and healthcare system around the world.

Digital communication and computer technology accounted for more than 15% of the total patent filing in 2020. Huawei was the top applicant for digital communication with 1868 patents filed and fourth in computer technology with 409 patent applications in 2020. The top computer technology filing was done by some of the American giants such as Microsoft, Intel, Alphabet, etc. with some Asian firms, such as Samsung, Oppo, Sony, etc. remarkably doing well.

Author: Saransh Chaturvedi (an advocate) currently pursuing LLM from Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law (IIT Kharagpur).  In case of any queries please contact/write back Global Patent Filing us at support@globalpatentfiling.com.

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