Rolls-Royce and Tata Group in top 10 UK applicants in 2013 at European Patent Office (EPO)

Patent filings at the European Patent Office (EPO) grew again in 2013, reaching a new record level. Companies and inventors from the UK filed 6,469 patents at the EPO (2012: 6,666), which was a 3% decrease (2012: +3.3%). With 2% of the total, the UK was the ninth largest country of origin (2012: 8th). Last year 2,062 European patents were granted to UK companies, which was 2% more than the previous year, and an increase of 25% since 2009.

“Demand for patent protection in Europe is up for the fourth consecutive year,” said EPO President BenoĆ®t Battistelli. “This growth is proof that companies from around the world continue to see Europe more and more as a premier hub of innovation. The strong position of European companies in patent-intense technologies once more underlines the central role of these sectors for employment and growth in the EU economy.”

10_UK_Top_patent_applicants_2013Unilever, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce: top three UK patent applicants. The UK again showed a diverse and evenly spread patent portfolio in 2013. The five leading fields of technology for European patent applications from the UK were Electrical machinery, apparatus and energy (287 applications), Measurement (with 281 applications), Organic fine chemistry (276), Medical technology (264) and Transport (257).

Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever was the UK’s most active patent applicant with 278 applications filed in the UK (and another 178 applications filed from the Netherlands making it number 5 in that country), and the third biggest patent filer at the EPO in the field of Organic chemistry.

Defence, security and aerospace company BAE Systems (175) came in second, showing growth in most of their key fields of technology, and an overall increase of 35% over 2012, followed by Rolls Royce (133, and the eighth largest filer for Engines and turbines), BT (105) and GE (103). With 66 applications (51 of which were in Pharmaceuticals), Glaxo Smith Kline was number eight in this field.

Patent grants up, filings down: The EPO granted 66,700 European patents last year, an increase of 1.6% over 2012 and the highest number ever. Of these, 2,062 were granted to UK companies in 2013, up 2% over the previous year, and an increase of 25% since 2009.

In total the EPO received 266,000 patent filings last year, 2.8% more than in 2012 and a new all-time high. The US and Japan again had the bulk of filings, while China (+16.2%) and South Korea (+14%) once more claimed the lion’s share of the growth.

Filings from Europe remained stable overall, with some countries such as the Netherlands (+17.2%), Ireland (+9.4%) and Sweden (+7.5%) making gains, and others slowing: besides the UK also Belgium (-7.4%), Germany (-5.4%), Italy (-2.7%) and Switzerland (-2%). Filings from the US (+2.8%) and Japan (+1%) grew moderately from very high levels.

Five European companies in top ten, Samsung in the lead

The list of top filing companies at the EPO was again headed by Samsung (2,833 applications), followed by Siemens (1,974) and Philips (1,839). With BASF (5th), Robert Bosch (6th) and Ericsson (10th), three more European companies were among the top ten, well ahead of Asia with three companies, and the US with two.

Last year approximately 65.5% of the applicants at the EPO were large companies, 29% were SMEs and individual inventors, and 5.5% universities and public research institutes.