Credit: Shutterstock.com

U.S. companies filed a record number of patent applications with the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2018, according to the EPO’s annual report for 2018. The number – 43,612 – marked an increase of 2.7 percent compared to a year earlier – the second consecutive year that the number of U.S. applications increased, following a decline in 2016.

The U.S. was also the country with the single biggest share of applications at the EPO last year, with 25 percent of the total.

China filed 9,401 applications at the EPO in 2018. While this was an increase of 8.8 percent compared to a year ago, it marked the lowest rate of increase for Chinese applications in five years.

The EPO received 174,317 patent applications in 2018 – an increase of 4.6 percent compared to 2017.

U.S. companies were well represented in the EPO’s main fields. They accounted for 38 percent of all patent applications at the EPO in computer technology, as well as in medical technology and pharmaceuticals, and 32 percent in biotechnology.

United Technologies was the most active U.S. patent applicant at the EPO, with 1,983 applications, followed by Qualcomm (1,593 applications), General Electric (1,307) and Intel (1,057).

Among U.S. companies, Microsoft was the leading patent applicant at the EPO in computer technology, with Intel in third place, Alphabet in fourth place, and Qualcomm in seventh. In medical technology, Johnson & Johnson was the new number one, pushing Royal Philips into second place, with Medtronic third, Boston Scientific fourth, and Procter & Gamble eighth.

Deere & Company was the leading applicant at the EPO in “other special machines”, a field covering inventions in several areas from agriculture to 3-D printing.

In pharmaceuticals, in addition to Merck being third and Johnson & Johnson ninth, several U.S. universities ranked among the top 20 filers. The University of California was the fifth-largest patent applicant in that field, the University of Pennsylvania was 11th, the University of Texas was 15th, and  Johns Hopkins University was in 19th place.

European companies maintained the lead in their home market, with 47 percent of all patent applications at the EPO originating from the 38 countries that are members of the EPO. Asian companies also held their ground, with the combined share of applications from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea rising moderately to 22.6 percent from 22.1 percent in 2017.

Germany continued to be the most significant European country, with 26,734 applications, an increase of 4.7 percent compared to 2017. This was mainly due to an upward trend in the automotive sector and related areas, such as sensors and other measuring devices.

Among the other countries with high levels of filing activity, applications from Switzerland (+7.8 percent), the U.K. (+7.8 percent) and Sweden (+7.1 percent) continued to rise solidly. Declines were reported, however, for France (-2.8 percent) and Finland (-3.8 percent). Applications from most of France’s 10 leading technical fields, especially biotechnology, medical technology and ICT, were down, while applications from Finland fell mostly in digital communication, computers and telecommunications.

Siemens was the top patent applicant at the EPO in 2018, with 2,493 applications. It last headed the ranking in 2011. Huawei, which was ranked first last year, came in second. They were followed by Korean companies Samsung and LG, and United Technologies.