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Medical technology top field for patent applications

The European Patent Office’s annual report showed an increase in the number of patent filings and the field of medtech is once again on top of the list.

The number of European patent filings grew again in 2015, reaching a new high of nearly 279 000. The EPO’s 2015 annual report also shows that the number of European patent applications (filings for which applicants have actually requested a European patent at the EPO) rose to 160 000 last year (compared to 152 700 in 2014, +4.8%). This increase was fueled mainly by companies from the US (+16.4%) and China (+22.2%). The volume of applications originating from the 38 EPO member states remained almost stable last year (+0.7%). In addition to the innovative capacity of US businesses, the strong growth in applications from the US is also due to the effects of a change in US patent law. The top five countries of origin for European patent applications in 2015 were the US, Germany, Japan, France and the Netherlands. Sweden (-0.9%) remained more or less at the level of the previous year, and Finland (-8.3%) and Denmark (-2.7%) also had fewer applications.

Medical technology and Nordic innovation

Once again medical technology was the field with the highest number of EPO patent applications in 2015, growing by a further 11% over 2014. Another area that showed significant growth was Pharmaceuticals (+10%). Biotechnology experienced fewer applications from European countries (-6% for EPO countries compared to +5% overall).

Europe’s potential in terms of innovation and technology is also highlighted by the number of European patent applications filed relative to a country’s population. Switzerland again topped the ranking in 2015, with 873 applications per million inhabitants. Second and third place went to the Netherlands (419) and Sweden (392), followed by Finland (365) and Denmark (346). The first non-European country was again Japan in ninth place (169).

The unitary patent soon a reality

The increase in patent applications comes as Europe prepares for a major reform of its patent system with the arrival of the unitary patent, which will apply across almost all EU states. Once in place, the unitary patent, which will be delivered and administered by the EPO, is expected to bring substantial time and cost savings for businesses wishing to legally protect their inventions EU-wide. All of the preparations for the new system were completed in 2015, and the EPO is now ready to deliver unitary patents.