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25 Dec, 2011

Intellectual Property Filings Worldwide Rebound in 2010 Despite Economic Turmoil

Geneva, December 20, 2011 — A new report published by the World Intellectual Property Organization today shows that intellectual property (IP) filings worldwide rebounded strongly in 2010 after a considerable decline in 2009. The recovery in IP filings was stronger than the overall economic recovery. Patent and trademark filings grew by 7.2% and 11.8% respectively in 2010 compared to growth of 5.1% in the global gross domestic product (GDP), with China and the United States (US) accounting for the greatest share of the increased filings.

In Europe, IP filing growth by France, Germany and the UK far exceeded the GDP growth rate of the three largest European economies in 2010.1

The 7.2% growth in patent applications in 2010 – the highest growth rate in five years – followed a 3.6% decline in 2009. The total number of 1.98 million patent applications worldwide was an all time high. Similarly, trademark filings rose by 11.8% in 2010 to reach 3.66 million– another all time high – having fallen by 2.6% in 2009.

In his foreword to the 2011 World Intellectual Property Indicators (WIPI) Report, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry notes that the upturn in IP filings shows that companies across the globe have been continuing to innovate. “This can help to create new jobs and generate prosperity once macroeconomic stability is restored,” he writes, while cautioning 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 Report, which contains detailed statistical information on national and international data up to 2010, shows that China and the US accounted for four-fifths of the 7.2% worldwide growth in patent filings.

The US patent office saw 7.5% growth in 2010 – after two years of near zero growth – and received the largest total number of applications (490,226).

The patent office of China (391,177 filings) overtook the office of Japan (344,598 filings) to become the second largest recipient of patent applications in 2010. This mirrored wider economic trends in a year in which China overtook Japan to become the second largest economy in the world, as measured by GDP.

The majority of the top 20 offices saw growth in applications in 2010, in contrast to 2009. Double digit growth was reached in China (24.3%), the European Patent Office (12.2%), Singapore (11.9%) and the Russian Federation (10.2%).

In the past decade, the patent office of China has seen the most dramatic increases in application levels. Between 2001 and 2010, annual growth averaged 22.6%, with patent filings rising from 63,450 in 2001 to 391,177 in 2010.

Applications at the patent offices of middle and low-income economies also rebounded strongly in 2010 after falling in 2009. Colombia, Malaysia, Philippines, Ukraine and Viet Nam saw double-digit growth in applications in 2010.

The Report also analyzes the numbers of filings by resident applicants. These show similar trends, with Chinese residents (293,066 applications) overtaking Japanese residents (290,081 applications) to become the most active patent filers in 2010.

Residents of Japan (172,945 applications) and the US (178,355 applications) filed, by far, the largest number of patent applications outside their own country. However, residents of Canada, Israel, the Netherlands and Switzerland filed more than 80% of their total applications abroad. Residents of China, on the other hand, filed only a small proportion (5%) of applications abroad.

Looking at patenting activity across different technology fields, 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 relative importance of different technology fields varied substantially across countries. Broadly defined information communications and technologies (ICTs) accounted for the largest share of filings in Finland and Sweden, with pharmaceuticals more prominent in Belgium, India and Switzerland.2

Patents granted (as distinct from patent applications filed) have recorded uninterrupted growth since 2000. In 2010, the total number of grants worldwide stood at 909,000 – an additional 100,000 grants over 2009 or growth of 12.4%. Resident grants accounted for two-thirds of the total increase.3 The patent offices of Japan and the US accounted for around 80% of total growth. The majority of the top 20 offices issued more patents in 2010 than in 2009.

The number of “potentially pending” patent applications across the world totaled 5.17 million in 2010, – a 3.3% reduction over 2009. The world total is based on data from 70 patent offices, which include most of the top 20 offices (with China among the exceptions). The patent office of Japan saw a significant reduction (-20%) in pending applications undergoing examination 2010. The EPO (-6.9%) and the US office (-2.3%) also had fewer pending applications in 2010 compared to 2009. Medium-sized offices, such as Chile (-11.6%), Israel (-8.8%), Mexico (-3.6%), Poland (-14.6%) and Ukraine (-5.9%) also saw considerable reductions in pending applications.


The estimated total of 3.66 million trademark applications worldwide in 2010 consisted of 2.78 million resident and 0.88 million non-resident applications. The IP office of China accounted for three-fifths of the 11.8% growth in applications worldwide.

Most of the large offices returned to positive growth in applications in 2010, having seen declines the previous year.4 The IP office of China received around a quarter of a million additional applications in 2010 compared to 2009 – more than the number of total annual applications received by France, Germany, and the UK together. A number of other large offices saw double-digit growth in 2010, notably China Hong Kong (SAR) (18.3%), Mexico (16%), France (13.1%), OHIM (12.2%), Brazil (11.5%) and the Russian Federation (11.4%).

The picture is more mixed for offices in low- and middle -income economies. A number of Eastern European countries such as Estonia (-15.1%), Georgia (-13%) and Lithuania (-14.8%) saw considerable declines in applications, whereas several non-European countries, such as Argentina (17.1%), Madagascar (16%), Panama (24%) and South Africa (13.9%), saw rapid filing growth.

Residents of Germany filed around 1.9 million “equivalent applications” in 2010.5 Residents of China and the US also filed more than one million applications each. The reason for the high number of applications for German and US residents is their extensive use of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) to seek protection in the EU. Each application at OHIM covers all EU member states, elevating the number of equivalent applications.

The Report shows that middle-income countries filed a higher number of trademark applications per GDP as compared to high-income countries. Chile filed 218 trademark applications per billion GDP in 2010. Bulgaria (166), Ecuador (157) and Viet Nam (128) also show high ratios of trademark filings per GDP, exceeding those for Germany (72), Japan (39) and the US (22).

Industrial Designs

In 2010, industrial design applications saw robust growth after slowing during the preceding two years. The number of applications filed across the world grew by 13%, mainly due to high growth in China which accounted for 83% of total growth. The IP office of China received around 70,000 additional applications in 2010 compared to 2009.

The total consists of 637,000 resident and 86,700 non-resident applications. The non-resident share (12% in 2010) has declined over time, due to high growth in China where residents account for the great majority of applications.

The IP office of Canada registered 20% growth in 2010 (as measured by the number of designs contained in applications). The IP offices of China (20%), Australia (14%), Spain (13%) and the US (12.6%) also saw substantial increases in application levels in 2010 . France and the Republic of Korea are the two major offices with slight declines in applications.

The share of China in the world total increased from 54% in 2009 to 58% in 2010, which is more than five times higher than the share of second largest office – OHIM. The IP offices of Japan, the Republic of Korea and the US together accounted for around 16% of the world total.


1  IP filings data refer to applications at national offices and regional offices (European Patent Office and EU’s Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market).

2  ICT sector includes the following fields of technologies: basic communication process, computer technology, digital communication, IT methods for management and telecommunications.

3  A resident application is defined as an application filed with a patent office by an applicant residing in the country in which that office has jurisdiction. A non-resident application is an application filed with the patent office of a given country by an applicant residing in another country.

4  All the trademark figures, except the world total, are based on class counts, that is the number of classes contained in applications.

5  Applications at regional offices are equivalent to multiple applications in the states that are members of those offices. To calculate the number of equivalent applications for OHIM and Benelux Office for Intellectual Property each application is multiplied by the corresponding number of member states.