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UK Innovators Continue to Drive Patent Filing Surge in Europe

by Anna

The European Patent Office (EPO) has released its latest Patent Index Report 2023, showcasing a significant upturn in patent filing activity across Europe, with UK-based innovators leading the charge.

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According to the report, UK innovators filed 5,918 European patent applications in the past year, marking a notable 4.2% increase from the previous year. This surge contributed to another record-breaking year for the EPO, which received a total of 199,275 patent applications globally.

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While several leading European countries witnessed growth in patent applications, the UK’s upturn was particularly robust. For instance, patent applications from innovators in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands increased by 1.4%, 2.7%, and 3.5%, respectively, whereas those from French innovators experienced a slight decline of 1.5%. This underscores the UK’s firm standing as a global hub for research science and technological innovation.

Jim Ribeiro, partner and patent attorney at European intellectual property firm, Withers & Rogers, expressed optimism about the findings, stating, “It is great to see that innovators in the UK and Europe are continuing to produce successful outcomes from their research and development activities and are seeking patent protection in the EU; the world’s biggest single market area.”

Ribeiro highlighted the UK’s healthy sign of innovation activity, noting the 4.2% increase in patent applications and the 24.2% growth over the past decade. He emphasized the importance of companies, publicly funded research organizations, and universities in driving innovative solutions for key demand-led markets.

The report also identifies the top five fields of technology that generated the most European patent applications from UK-based innovators in 2023: computer technology, medical technology, consumer goods, biotechnology, and transport.

Leading the pack in patent filings from the UK was Unilever, which submitted 575 patent applications to the EPO in 2023, representing an impressive 18.3% increase compared to the previous year. British American Tobacco followed closely behind with 354 patent applications, while Rolls-Royce secured third place with 251 patent applications. Other notable UK filers included Linde (198 filings), BAE Systems (178 filings), and British Telecommunications (161 filings).

On a global scale, the growth in patent applications made to the EPO in 2023, coupled with their diverse origins, reflects buoyant innovation activity worldwide. Notably, the Republic of Korea experienced a significant surge in filings (+21%), alongside continued growth from the People’s Republic of China (+8.8%).

Ribeiro emphasized the critical role of innovation activity in driving economic prosperity and highlighted the UK’s increasing recognition as a dynamic destination for businesses and scientists to establish their research and development programs. He also noted the rising number of patents filed by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), indicating their growing awareness of the importance of patents in attracting investment and advancing research and development endeavors.

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