Rise in intellectual property filings point to innovation despite economic crisis – UN

World Intellectual Property Organization Director General Francis Gurry

20 December 2011 – Intellectual property filings worldwide increased significantly in 2010, pointing to continuing innovation driven mainly by the United States and China despite the global economic crisis, according to a report released today in Geneva by the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The report highlights the strong rebound in IP filings after a slump in 2009, with a 7.2 per cent growth in patent applications in 2010 – the highest growth rate in five years – compared to a 3.6 per cent decline the previous year.

WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry noted that the increase in IP filings shows that companies across the globe have continued to innovate despite the difficult economic conditions.

“This can help to create new jobs and generate prosperity once macroeconomic stability is restored,” he notes in the report’s foreword.

However, Mr. Gurry warned that “if economic conditions were to deteriorate sharply in the short term – as happened in 2009 – companies might be forced to curtail or abandon their investments in innovation, stifling an essential source of growth.”

The total number of patent applications worldwide rose by 7.2 per cent, reaching 1.98 million, while trademark filings rose by 11.8 per cent and reached 3.66 million, both all-time high figures according to WIPO.

The report shows that computer technology, electrical machinery, audio-visual technology and medical technology accounted for the largest shares of patent filings worldwide. However, the importance of different technology fields varied substantially across countries.

For example, information communications and technologies (ICTs) made up the largest share of filings in Finland and Sweden, while pharmaceuticals were more prominent in Belgium, India and Switzerland.

China and the US accounted for the greatest share of IP filings, with 7.2 per cent, while in Europe IP growth in IP filings in France, Germany and the United Kingdom exceeded the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of the countries.

The US patent office saw 7.5 per cent growth in 2010 after two years of near-zero growth, and received the largest total number of applications, while the patent office of China overtook Japan to become the second largest recipient of patent applications in 2010. This mirrored wider economic trends as China overtook Japan to become the second largest economy in the world in 2010, as measured by GDP.

Other countries which saw double-digit growth in their patent filings include Singapore, Russia, Colombia, Malaysia, Philippines, Ukraine and Viet Nam.

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