International patent applications filed via WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which is one of the widely used metrics for measuring innovative activity, grew by 4% in 2020 to reach 275,900 applications – the highest number ever, despite an estimated drop in global GDP of 3.5%, TechEconomy.ng has gathered.
Patent: China (68,720 applications, +16.1% year-on-year growth) remained the largest user of WIPO’s PCT System, followed by the U.S. (59,230 applications, +3%), Japan (50,520 applications, -4.1%), the Republic of Korea (20,060 applications, +5.2%) and Germany (18,643 applications, -3.7%.
Beyond the top 10, other countries that saw strong growth include Saudi Arabia (956 applications, +73.2%), Malaysia (255 applications, +26.2%), Chile (262 applications, +17.0%), Singapore (1,278 applications, +14.9%) and Brazil (697 applications, +8.4%).
Longer term trends point to the globalization of innovation, with Asia accounting for 53.7% percent of all PCT filing activity, versus 35.7% 10 years ago.
Use of the international trademark system dipped, but only slightly. This was expected given that trademarks tend to represent the introduction of new goods and services – both of which slowed as a result of the global pandemic.
International trademark applications via WIPO’s Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks decreased by 0.6% to 63,800 in 2020 – the first decline since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.
The economic fallout from the pandemic hit demand for the protection of industrial designs via the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs. Demand fell by 15% in 2020 to 18,580 designs – the first decline since 2006.
Worldwide demand for IP rights, which help innovators and enterprises take their ideas to the market, has historically and broadly tracked global economic performance. However, growth over the past decade in the use of WIPO’s global IP services, most notably the PCT, has outperformed global GDP growth.
Top PCT filers
For the fourth consecutive year, China-based telecoms giant Huawei Technologies, with 5,464 published PCT applications, was the top filer in 2020.
It was followed by Samsung Electronics of the Republic of Korea (3,093), Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan (2,810), LG Electronics Inc. of the Republic of Korea (2,759) and Qualcomm Inc. of the U.S. (2,173).
Among the top 10 filers, LG Electronics reported the fastest growth (+67.6%) in the number of published applications in 2020 and as a result it moved up from 10th position in 2019 to 4th position in 2020.
The University of California with 559 published applications continues to head the list of top applicants among educational institutions in 2020.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (269) ranked second, followed by Shenzhen University (252), Tsinghua University (231) and Zhejiang University (209).
The top 10-university list comprises five universities from China, four from the U.S., and one from Japan.
Among fields of technology, computer technology (9.2% of total) accounted for the largest share of published PCT applications, followed by digital communication (8.3%), medical technology (6.6%), electrical machinery (6.6%), and measurement (4.8%).
Six of the top 10 technologies recorded double-digit growth in 2020, with audio-visual technology reporting the fastest rate of growth – +29.5%, compared to 8.7% the previous year – followed by digital communication (+15.8%), computer technology (+13.2%), measurement (+10.9%) semiconductors (+10.1%) and pharmaceuticals (+10%).