GENEVA -- The United States and China helped drive international patent filings to a record level last year, and cross-border applications surged to more than 200,000, the World Intellectual Property Organization said on Thursday.
Innovation in engine technology was a leading factor behind patent activity.
The flow of activity to register new patents is watched as an important indicator of how companies, countries, sectors and regions rank in terms of research and innovation, which are essential drivers of growth and strategic power.
WIPO oversees the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which allows patent-seekers to file a single application to protect their invention, rather than having to lodge one in individual nations.
A total of 205,300 PCT filings were registered in 2013, up 5.1% from the 194,400 filed a year earlier.
"Intellectual property in general is in a growth mode, and in a growth mode which is considerably in excess of either the national GDP growth rates or the world GDP growth rates," WIPO chief Francis Gurry said.
U.S.-based inventors filed 57,239 such applications, marking a 56% jump from 2012 and well above the country's previous peak of 54,046 applications reached in 2007, before the global financial crisis.
China, meanwhile, saw its PCT applications jump 29% to 21,516, passing Germany to become the third largest user of the system, behind Japan.
Panasonic was meanwhile the largest individual filer last year, with 2,881 international patent applications to its name, ahead of Chinese telecommunications group ZTE, WIPO said.
Electronic machinery made up the largest share of international patent filings last year, accounting for nearly eight percent of the total, followed by computer technology and digital communications.
The number of filings from car manufacturers meanwhile nearly doubled to 4,275 last year, possibly reflecting fast-growing investments in R&D in this industry, WIPO said.
"The fields that are most important are really the ones that have to do with engine technology, fuel cells and hybrid engines," said WIPO's chief economist Carsten Fink, noting that the first auto patent was filed by German Karl Benz in 1879.
The UN agency also runs the so-called Madrid system for international trademark applications, which grew by 6.4% in 2013 to a record 46,829 filings.
Germany filed the most Madrid applications, followed by the United States and France, while Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis was the company with most such filings in 2013.
WIPO also heads the Hague system for international industrial design applications, which swelled 14.8% last year to a record 2,990 filings.
Switzerland last year overtook Germany to become the largest user of that system, with 662 applications -- 113 of them from the world's largest watchmaker Swatch alone.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014