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Patent activity worldwide in 2021

Source: five IP offices

Aenert news. Invention analysis
The world's leading patent offices (WIPO, IP5) released key statistics for 2021 at the end of last year. Overall results are impressive. Thus, in 2021, 2.9m patent applications were filed (+4%) and almost 1.5m patents were granted (+10%) in the top 5 patent offices (CNIPA, EPO, JPO, KIPO, USPTO).

Substantial decline in the number of granted patents was seen in EPO (-18.6%) and USPTO (-6.9%), which, however, was offset by a large number of patent documents in CNIPA (+31.3%) and KIPO (+ 8.2%) patent offices. In 2020, the number of patents in force has grown considerably, compared to the previous period. At the same time, the majority of patents in force is still concentrated in EPO – 31%, followed by USPTO (21%) and CNIPA (19%).

However, these results do not allow us to make an unambiguous conclusion about the global trends in patent activity.

Patents in Force, end 2020

Source: five IP offices

The state of patent activity is illustrated more clearly by the relationship of the number of applications to the number of all patent documents (i.e. the total of both patents and patent applications) by year. It should be taken into account that patents are predominantly granted several years after the registration of patent applications. On the other hand, patent applications are generally registered within a year. The annual growth of this indicator combined with a simultaneous increase in the number of patents and patent applications forms a strong sign of a positive trend in patent activity. Additional confirmation for this assumption lies in the growth of the number of start patent applications, i.e. the total number of applications, excluding those belonging to the existing patent families, and the effectiveness of patenting, characterized by the share of patent applications that have received patent status. Unfortunately, acquiring such information requires additional processing of a pool of patent documents and is currently unavailable, which does not allow us to draw unambiguous conclusions. A decrease in the ratio of patent applications to the total number of patent documents, even against the background of an increase in the number of patents and patent applications, may rather indicate a slowdown in patent activity. As follows from the data provided in the chart below, this indicator continues to decline in CNIPA and at the global level for the third year in a row, which is a negative sign. At the same time, the increase in this ratio in EPO is conditioned by a significant decline in the number of patents granted in 2021 and can’t be considered as a proper indicator, although it demonstrates the passing of the temporary peak of patent activity and the formation of new parity ratio between patent applications and patents.

Relationship of number of applications to number of documents by year A/S

Source: based on WIPO IP Statistics Data Center & five IP offices

The statistics provided for WIPO and IP5 allow a partial estimate of patent activity in the energy sector. The chart below clearly shows that after the peak of patenting in 2018, a slowdown can be seen in this process. Although such sectors as Environmental technology and Electrical machinery, apparatus, and energy in 2021 approached the peak values of 2018, the remaining sectors are still far from this.

The number of patents granted in the last decade for the energy-related fields of technology

Source: based on WIPO IP Statistics Data Center & five IP offices

In CNIPA, an increase is seen in the number of granted patents in almost all mentioned energy sectors, especially Electrical machinery, apparatus, and energy, and Transport. EPO had the largest drop in the number of patents in the same sectors.

The WIPO IP Statistics Data Center also lists the top countries in terms of inventive activity. Below are the top six countries by the number of patent applications per million inhabitants.

Resident applications per million population

Source: based on WIPO IP Statistics Data Center

In 2021, the Republic of Korea not only preserved its leading positions, but also significantly strengthened them by a wide margin, compared to other countries. To a much lesser extent this indicator has grown in China and Switzerland. The number of resident applications per million inhabitants of the country continued to fall in Japan, Germany, and the United States.

By the Editorial Board