The EPO statistics from the Patent Index 2020 annual report show a slight overall decline in European patent applications. However, it is all the more evident that China and South Korea increased their patent applications – and the EU and the USA made significantly fewer inventions.
EPO statistics on the Corona year 2020
The European Patent Office (EPO) has published its annual report on European patent applications in 2020, the Patent Index 2020. The Corona year 2020 has left its mark, it becomes obvious that the special Corona situation led to fewer inventions. This is basically true for the total number of European patent applications. For comparison: in 2019, patent applications at the EPO were still up by 4%, but in 2020 there was a -0.7% decline.
According to EPO statistics, the two strongest areas were medical technology and digital communication – we already reported this at the beginning of January 2021.
One is almost inclined to think “Well, that went smoothly”, considering that many states are facing a decline in economic output for 2020 due to Corona in the range of 5 to 7 per cent (in Germany, the economy shrank by about five per cent in 2020 during the Corona crisis).
But if you look more closely at the EPO statistics, you find a reflection of the shrunken economy in the European patent application figures. The Corona year 2020 brought China and South Korea well ahead – but the EU and US made significantly fewer inventions. In short, the Western world was significantly less innovative in 2020.
In absolute numbers: 1st place USA, 2nd place Germany
In absolute terms, the USA are in first place in 2020 with 44 293 European patent applications, but this is 4% less than in 2019. Germany is in second place with 25 954, closely followed by Japan in third place (21 841 EPO patent applications).
China is in 4th place (13 432 EPO patent applications), South Korea in 6th place (9 106 EPO patent applications). Incidentally, 5th place between these two is occupied by France, according to EPO statistics.
In %: USA and DE shrink, China and South Korea increase significantly
However, if we look at the EPO statistics on patent applications in a percentage comparison between 2019 and 2020, it becomes clear that China and South Korea made top gains – and the EU and the USA made significantly fewer inventions. The USA made 4% fewer patent applications in 2020 than in 2019, Germany 3% fewer and the Netherlands even 9% fewer.
China, on the other hand, made 9.9 % more in 2020, and South Korea 9.2 %. Although there is even much higher percentage growth, e.g. from Turkey (a plus of 26 %) and Saudi Arabia (plus 34 %) and Qatar (+133 %), these are with very small absolute figures. China, on the other hand, is also in 4th place in the Patent Index 2020 in terms of absolute filing numbers.
There are also positive reports from the western world in 2020 for innovative spirit from the EPO statistics: from Finland came an increase of 11 %, from Ireland plus 10 %, and from France at least an increase of 3 %. Poland (+ 4 %), Slovenia (+ 35 %) and Estonia (+ 18 %) are also attracting attention with increases in EPO patent applications, albeit with small absolute application numbers. This is quite plausible, especially with regard to Poland and Estonia, because Poland is particularly strong in gaming production, with big names in the games industry. And Estonia is known as the digital pioneer of Europe anyway, as is Sweden.
2021: More innovations in and from the EU?
Above all, the targeted establishment of the 5 G standard should lead to more patent applications in 2021, as should the progressive automation of companies – but presumably also clearly from China, which has concluded a cooperation agreement with the EPO for two years for facilitated EPO patent applications.
EFI on Innovation 2021 in Germany
This is also supported by the fact that 18 % of companies in Germany’s information economy are even talking about accelerating their innovation projects through the Corona Year 2020, according to the recently published German EFI report. EFI is the abbreviation for Expert Commission on Research and Innovation, which makes recommendations to the German government on innovation every year.
The EFI statistics name the areas of hydrogen technology and quantum technology in particular for Germany, which will receive special funding in 2021. By 2022, a total of 650 million euros will be made available for R&D in the field of quantum technologies, as the Federal Government has just announced.
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