UK With Strongest Increase of Patent Applications at the European Patent Office in Five Years

Mar 03, 2016, 04:00 ET from European Patent Office (EPO)

BRUSSELS, March 3, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --


  • UK patent applications at the European Patent Office up 5.7% in 2015  
  • Rolls-Royce becomes new top UK patent applicant 
  • Transport, Engines, and Computer Technology drove growth  
  • Greater London leads UK regional ranking, West Midlands with strongest growth 


Patent applications from the UK at the European Patent Office (EPO) grew by 5.7% in 2015, the highest increase in five years and the second highest in the last 10 years. Last year UK companies and inventors filed 5 037 patent applications with the EPO (2014: 4 764), the highest number since 2011, and well above the EU 28 average growth of 0.3%. (Fig.: Growth of UK patent applications at the EPO)

The overall number of European patent applications at the EPO in 2015 rose to 160 000 (2014: 153 000, +4.8%). (Fig: Growth of patent applications). This increase was fuelled mainly by companies from the US (+16.4%) and China (+22.2%), whilst the volume of applications originating from the 38 EPO member states remained almost stable last year (+0.7%). The top 10 countries of origin were the US, Germany, Japan, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, S. Korea, P.R. China, the UK (9th place) and Italy. (Fig.: Origin of applications)

"The remarkable growth in patent applications at the EPO proves that Europe continues to be a hub for innovators from all over the world, and an attractive technology market," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "It reflects the interest of businesses and inventors in opting for high-quality patent protection for the European market." He added: "Despite the impressive growth in applications from outside Europe, the balance of the number of patent applications made by European companies in other regions remains clearly positive, which underlines the innovative potential of the European economy." (Fig.: Flow of patent applications between EPO and IP5 countries)

Rolls-Royce highest number of applications, BAE more than doubles volume 

With 540 applications, Rolls-Royce was the UK's most active patent applicant at the EPO. By increasing the number of applications from 182 in the previous year, Rolls-Royce became the new No. 1 from the UK, followed by last year's No. 1 Unilever (247), and BAE Systems, which increased the number of patent applications by 150% from 96 to 242. In fourth place there is BT, followed by Glaxo Smith Kline and Vodafone. (Fig. Top UK applicants at the EPO in 2015)

Transport became most important UK technology field 

Within the 10 most important technology fields, applications from the UK grew strongest in Computer technology (+37%), Transport (+35%), where many patents application from the automotive sector are filed, and Engines, Pumps, Turbines (+22%), where many patent applications in clean energies are filed. Transport became the UK's new main technology field with most patent applications overall, increasing its share of all UK applications from 5% to 7%. The second most important field was Measurement, followed by Engines, Pumps, Turbines, and Medical Technology, all three fields with a 6% share.

Greater London with most patent applications 

Greater London leads the regional ranking with a 32% share of all UK patent applications, followed by three regions all contributing approx. 10% to UK patent applications: East of England (10.8%), North West England (10.5%) and South East England (10.4%). The biggest growth was recorded in the West Midlands (+25%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (+24%).

Varied activity across Europe 

There were marked differences in patenting activity among European countries in 2015: Italy reversed the negative trend of the past four years (with +9% more applications in 2015), as did Spain (+3.8%). Belgium (+5.9%), like the Netherlands (+3.3%) and Switzerland (+2.6%) continued their growth. Other countries including France (+1.6%), Austria (+1.4%) and Sweden (-0.9%) remained more or less at the level of the previous year, while applications from Germany dropped again (-3.2%), and some Nordic states such as Finland (-8.3%) and Denmark (-2.7%) also had fewer applications. (Fig.: Top 50 countries for applications)

Medical technology, Digital communications and Computers are top fields 

Medical technology was once again the field with the highest number of patent applications at the EPO in 2015, growing by a further 11% over 2014. Other areas which showed significant growth were "Engines, pumps and turbines" (+18%), "Pharmaceuticals" (+10%), "Measurement" (+8%) and "Computers" (+8%). (Fig.: Technical fields with most applications).

Philips no. 1 in company ranking 

Philips moved into the top spot in the list of companies with the most patent applications at the EPO in 2015. Samsung ranked second, followed by LG, Huawei and Siemens. The top 10 was made up of four companies from Europe, three from the US, two from Korea and one from China. (Fig.: Top 10 applicants in 2015)

For detailed statistics, and a report on activities in 2015, see the EPO's annual report at:

About the EPO 

With more than 7 000 staff, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public service institutions in Europe. Its headquarters are in Munich and it also has offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna. The EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. Through the EPO's centralised patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain high-quality patent protection in the 38 member states of the European Patent Organisation. The EPO is also the world's leading authority in patent information and patent searching.

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SOURCE European Patent Office (EPO)