Patents becoming more popular than ever, says UN intellectual property agency

16 October 2006 – The number of applications for patents has virtually doubled in the past 20 years, a clear sign that the patent system is stimulating innovation and promoting economic activity around the world, the United Nations agency that protects ownership of intellectual property says in a report released today.

Some 5.4 million patents were in force in 2004, according to the annual report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), with almost one in two new applications for patents filed under the agency’s own Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

The number of applications filed each year jumped from 884,400 in 1985 to 1,599,000 in 2004, and has risen by an average of 4.75 per cent each year since 1995 – in line with the average annual growth in global gross domestic product (GDP) of 5.6 per cent during the same period.

Growth has been greatest in Northeast Asia, with the Republic of Korea (ROK) and China emerging as the fourth and fifth source of patents as their economies have become more industrialized in the past two decades.

But the report also found that applications for patents have become more internationalized, and applicants are increasingly seeking protection outside their country of residence.

Kamil Idris, Director General of WIPO, said in a statement from Geneva following the report that the latest edition is the result of improved collection and analysis of patent data by the agency.

Meanwhile, WIPO’s mechanism for handling disputes over Internet domain names has just achieved a milestone, handing down a decision in its 25,000th case since it began operations in 1999.

The milestone case was a cybersquatting dispute in which a panellist with WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Centre ordered the transfer of the domain name redlionhotels.com to the trademark owner, the Red Lion Hotels chain.

More than 9,500 of the cases handled by the WIPO centre have been under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), which offers a streamlined way to resolve disputes involving the use of Internet domain names. Its users include entertainment figures, pharmaceutical companies, technology firms and small- to mid-size businesses.

The Arbitration and Mediation Centre was created in 1994 to offer dispute resolution procedures for all types of intellectual property disputes, including patents, trademarks and copyright licensing.

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