The United States of America (U.S.) extended its long-standing position as the top source of international patent applications via WIPO amid another strong year of worldwide intellectual property (IP) filing growth, as an electronics manufacturer displaced a watch maker as the leading depositor of international industrial design applications.
International patent applications filed under WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) grew by 1.7% to 218,000 in 2015, setting a new annual record. Innovators based in the U.S. have filed the largest annual number of international patent applications for 38 years running. Still, large increases in patent-filing activity by China-based innovators accounted for much of the overall growth.
The U.S. also topped the list of biggest filers of international trademark applications via WIPO’s Madrid System and continued its rise in the rapidly expanding global industrial design Hague System also administered by WIPO, following its recent accession along with Japan and the Republic of Korea.
“Global intellectual property applications, like those for patents, trademarks and industrial designs provide a good indication of the incidence and location of innovation,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “We see through this indicator that, while the United States of America maintains its premier position, the geography of innovation continues to shift and to evolve, with Asia, and in particular Japan, China and the Republic of Korea, forming the predominant geographical cluster,” he added.
PCT System – International Patent Applications
The U.S., with 57,385 international patent applications, remains the largest user of the PCT [Annex 1], despite an annual drop of 6.7% in 2015 – likely due to an unusually large number of filings in 2014 that was linked to changes in the U.S. patent system.
The U.S. is followed by Japan (44,235 PCT filings) and China (29,846). Overall, growth in filings was driven by China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. As a result, Asia has more than doubled its share of all PCT applications filed since 2005 and now accounts for 43% of the total.
Among the top 15 origins, sizeable growth was registered in China (+16.8%), the Republic of Korea (+11.5%), Israel (+7.4%), Switzerland (+4.4%), Japan (+4.4%) and the Netherlands (+3.6%). Like the U.S., Finland (-12.1%) and Canada (-7.2%) saw fewer filings than in the previous year.
Top PCT applicants
Telecoms companies head the list of top PCT filers in 2015, with Huawei Technologies leading for the second consecutive year with 3,898 published PCT applications, or an additional 456 applications over 2015. U.S.-based Qualcomm Incorporated was the second largest applicant in 2015, with 2,442 published applications, while China’s ZTE Corporation ranked third with 2,155 PCT applications [Annex 2].
Eight U.S. universities are among the top 10n educational institution filers. The University of California led with 361 published applications, followed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (213), Johns Hopkins University (170), the University of Texas System (163) and Harvard University (158). China’s Tsinghua University came in 8th place, followed by Japan’s University of Tokyo [Annex 3].
PCT filings by field of technology
Among dozens of technical fields, computer technology and digital communication saw the largest numbers of filings in 2015, each exceeding 16,000.Computer technology with 16,385 published applications – or 8.2% of the total – accounted for the largest share of PCT applications, followed by digital communication (8%), electronic machinery (7.3%) and medical technology (6.3%) [Annex 4].
Hewlett-Packard Development Company of the U.S. is the largest filer for computer technology, followed by Huawei Technologies and Qualcomm. For digital communication, Huawei Technologies, ZTE and Qualcomm are the top applicants. As for electronic machinery, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation of Japan is the largest applicant followed by two other Japanese companies, Panasonic Intellectual Property Management and Toyota Jidosha. Philips Electronics of the Netherlands, Olympus Corporation of Japan and Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc. of the U.S. accounted for the largest shares of medical technology applications.
International trademark applications filed under the WIPO-administered Madrid System grew by 2.9%, reaching a record 49,273 applications in 2015. The U.S. and Australia accounted for 90% of total growth [Annex 5].
Among the top 10 origins, Australia (+32.3%) and the US (+11.3%) saw double-digit growth in 2015 with China (+7.9%) and Japan (+6%) also recording strong growth. In contrast, the UK (-7.3%), the Netherlands (-6.8%) and Switzerland (-3%) all saw declines. Spain, Turkey and Austria are also large users of the Madrid System.
Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG heads the list of top filers, with 197 applications in 2015, followed by retailer LIDL of Germany (152) and L’Oréal of France (130) [Annex 5]. Among the top 50 applicants Richter Gedeon Nyrt of Hungary (+104 filings), another pharmaceutical company, saw the largest increase in filings in 2015.
China (24,849 designations), the U.S. (21,996) and the European Union (21,721) are the three most designated member countries in international registrations [Annex 6]. Recent Madrid members India and Mexico rank among the top ten designated countries.
International industrial design applications filed under WIPO’s Hague System grew by 40% in 2015, the fastest rate since 2008. Designs contained in those applications grew by 13.8% in 2015, partly explained by the expansion of the Hague System to include the Republic of Korea in 2015, and Japan and the US in 2015. The Republic of Korea has already become the fourth largest user of the Hague System, and the U.S. and Japan rank as the sixth and ninth largest filers [Annex 7].
“The strong growth of international design filings under the Hague System attests to the importance of the appearance of products for gaining a competitive edge in the marketplace. It also reflects the accession of three major economies – Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States – to the Hague Agreement over the last two years, which has marked a milestone in transforming this WIPO filing treaty into a truly global system,” said Mr. Gurry.
Germany, with 3,453 designs, remains the largest user of the Hague System, despite a 10.7% decline compared to 2015, followed by Switzerland (3,316 designs), France (1,317) and the Republic of Korea (1, 282).
Samsung Electronics of the Republic of Korea, with 1,132 designs, displaced Swatch AG of Switzerland (511 designs) to become the largest user of the Hague System. The Netherlands’ Fonkel Meubelmarketing (438), Volkswagen of Germany (418), and Procter & Gamble of the U.S. (369) complete the list of top five applicants [Annex 8].
 = Changes in U.S. patent law in America Invents Act likely contributed to the temporary surge of filings seen in 2014 and returned to the long-term trend in 2015.?