US House Panel Approves Bill to Rein in Patent Fights

US Companies File Record-High Patent Applications in Europe

March 12, 2019
United Technologies Corp. was the top U.S. filer.

U.S. companies submitted a record number of patent applications to the European Patent Office in 2018, retaining the country’s status as the most prolific filer.

The 43,612 patent applications U.S. companies filed was 25% of the total, the agency said Tuesday, and far more than the 26,734 filed by Germany, the closest competitor. It was up 2.7% from 2017.

Siemens AG, based in Munich, filed 2,493 patent applications with the EPO, more than any other company. United Technologies Corp. was the top U.S. filer, but its 1,983 applications trailed those from China’s Huawei Technologies Co. (No. 2, with 2,485) and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. (No. 3, with 2,449) and LG Electronics Inc. (No. 4, at 2,376).

U.S. applicants maintained a clear dominance in certain sectors, which Rainer Osterwalder, an EPO spokesman, attributes in part to “very high” investments in research and development. Information and communication technologies, pharmaceuticals, biotech and medical technologies, for example, see significant expenditures by U.S. firms, “and patents being one reflection of R&D activities, they show how important that is,” he said.

Qualcomm Inc. (No. 7, at 1,593 applications) and General Electric Co. (No. 9, at 1,307) were the other U.S. companies among the top 10 applicants in 2018.

China’s 9,401 applications were the fifth most among countries applying for European patents in 2018, and nearly 9 percent more than Chinese companies applied for in 2017. China has become “very active,” Osterwalder said, responding to moves by its political leaders to shift the country “from being the work bench of the world to being the laboratory.” China also is “broadening their technology approach,” he said, expanding beyond its wheelhouse of digital communication technologies.

The EPO’s centralized patent-granting procedure gives inventors access to patent protection in up to 44 countries, the agency says, a market of about 700 million people.

More patent applications (13,795) were filed for medical technology than for any other field. The strongest growth was in life sciences, according to the EPO, with applications in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology growing by a combined 13%. U.S. companies accounted for 38% of applications for patents in the fields of computer technology, medical technology and pharmaceuticals, and filed 32% of all applications in biotechnology.

Several U.S. universities ranked among the top 20 filers for European patents in pharmaceuticals. The University of California was fifth in the field, the University of Pennsylvania 11th, the University of Texas System 15th and Johns Hopkins University 19th.

U.S. companies had 31,136 patents granted by the EPO in 2018, nearly 25% more than were granted in 2017.

By Christopher Yasiejko

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Licensed content from Bloomberg, copyright 2016.

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