WIPO 2018 IP Services: Innovators file record number of International Patent Applications, with Asia now taking the Lead

Asia-based innovators filed more than half of all international patent applications via WIPO for the first time in 2018 on significant growth from China, India and the Republic of Korea, capping another record-setting year for WIPO’s global intellectual property (IP) services.

“Asia is now the majority filer of international patent applications via WIPO, which is an important milestone for that economically dynamic region and underscores the historical geographical shift of innovative activity from West to East.”

WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) passed a record-breaking quarter-million (253000) filing mark in 2018, a 3.9 % increase over 2017, while WIPO’s Madrid System saw 61200 international trademark applications, a 6.4 % increase. WIPO’s Hague System for industrial designs saw 3.7 % growth in 2018, reaching 5404 applications.

U.S.-based inventors filed the greatest number of PCT patent applications in 2018, trailed closely by China, which is expected to surpass the U.S. within the next two years on current trends.

Patents (Patent Cooperation Treaty – PCT)

In 2018, U.S.-based applicants filed 56142 PCT applications, followed by applicants from China (53345) and Japan (49702). Germany and the Republic of Korea ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, with 19883 and 17014 applications (Annex 1 PDF, Annex 1, PCT international applications by origin). China and India (2013) are the only two middle-income countries among the top 15 origins of PCT applications. More than half of all PCT applications filed in 2018 came from Asia (50.5 %), with Europe (24.5 %) and North America (23.1 %) accounting for about a quarter each.

“Asia is now the majority filer of international patent applications via WIPO, which is an important milestone for that economically dynamic region and underscores the historical geographical shift of innovative activity from West to East,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “Intellectual property is a critical competitive element in the modern global economy, with everyone ultimately benefiting from this race to create and innovate that results in new products that transform our world and the way people live everywhere.”

Among the top 15 origins, India (+27.2%) and Finland (+14.7 %) are the only two countries to record double-digit annual growth in 2018. China (+9.1 %) and the Republic of Korea (+8 %) both saw strong growth, although China’s rate was its lowest since 2002. The U.K. recorded a 1.3 % increase in filings, representing five uninterrupted years of growth. In contrast, the Netherlands (-6.6 %), France (-1.2 %) and the U.S. (-0.9 %) each saw a decrease in filings.

China-based telecoms giant Huawei Technologies, with a record number of 5405 published PCT applications, was the top corporate filer in 2018. It was followed by Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan (2812), Intel Corp. of the U.S. (2499), Qualcomm Inc. of the U.S. (2404) and ZTE Corp. of China (2080). ZTE Corp., which was the top applicant in 2016, saw a 29.8 % drop in the number of published PCT filings in 2018, its second straight year of declines. The top 10 applicant list comprises six companies from Asia, two from Europe and two from the U.S.

Among educational institutions, the University of California was the largest user of the PCT System in 2018 with 501 published applications, extending a leading position it has held since 1993. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (216) ranked second, followed by Shenzhen University (201), South China University of Technology (170) and Harvard University (169) (Annex 3 PDF, Annex 3, Top PCT applicants by educational institution). For the first time in 2018, Chinese universities appear in the top 10 list, which comprises five universities from the U.S., four from China and one from the Republic of Korea.

Among fields of technology, digital communication (8.6 % of the total) overtook computer technology (8.1 %) with the largest share of published PCT applications. These two fields were followed by electrical machinery (7 %), medical technology (6.7 %) and transport (4.6 %), (Annex 4 PDF, Annex 4, PCT international applications by field of technology). Among the top 10 technologies, transport (+11.3 %), digital communication (+10.1 %) and semiconductors (+9.8 %) were the fields with the highest rates of growth in 2018.

Trademarks (Madrid System)

U.S.-based applicants (8825) filed the largest number of international trademark applications using WIPO’s Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks in 2018, followed by those located in Germany (7495), China (6900), France (4490) and Switzerland (3364). Madrid international applications by origin.

Among the top 15 origins, the Republic of Korea (+26.2%), Japan (+22.8%), the U.S. (+11.9%) and Turkey (+10.2%) recorded double-digit growth. In contrast, Australia (-2.4%) and Austria (-0.1%) are the only two top origins from which fewer applications were filed in 2018 than in 2017.

Novartis AG of Switzerland with 174 applications headed the list of top filers, followed by L’Oréal of France (169), Daimler AG of Germany (129), Apple Inc. of the U.S. (87) and Henkel AG of Germany (86). Novartis AG filed 78 more applications in 2018 than in 2017, elevating it from fourth position to the top spot.

The top 10 applicants list is comprised of six companies from Europe, three from Asia and one from the U.S.

The most-specified class in international applications – computers and electronics – accounted for 10.1% of the total, followed by services for business (8 %) and technological services (6.7 %). Among the top 10 classes, technological services (+13.8 %) and cleaning preparations (+12.9 %) saw the fastest growth.

Industrial designs (Hague System)

The number of applications filed under the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs grew by 3.7 % in 2018, while the number of designs contained in those applications saw a small drop (-0.7 %). The total number of applications amounted to 5404 containing 19296 designs.

Applicants based in Germany (3,964 designs contained in their applications) continue to be the largest users of the international design system, followed by those in Switzerland (2510), the Republic of Korea (1547), France (1454) and the Netherlands (1382). Among the top 10 origins, the Netherlands (+71.3 %) and Japan (+52.6 %) saw the fastest growth, while the U.S. (-22.2 %) saw a sharp drop.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 191 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society’s evolving needs. It provides business services for obtaining IP rights in multiple countries and resolving disputes. It delivers capacity-building programs to help developing countries benefit from using IP. And it provides free access to unique knowledge banks of IP information.