China in 2019 surpassed the United States of America (U.S.) as the top source of international patent applications filed with WIPO.
International patent system (Patent Cooperation Treaty – PCT)
With 58,990 applications filed in 2019 via WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) System, China ended the U.S. (57,840 applications in 2019) reign as the biggest user of the PCT System that helps incentivize and spread innovation – a position previously held by the U.S. each year since the PCT began operations in 1978.
International patent applications filed via the PCT grew by 5.2% (265,800 applications) in 2019, while international trademark applications via the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks increased by 5.7% (64,400 applications). Protection for industrial designs via the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs saw a 10.4% growth (21,807 designs), capping another record-setting year for WIPO’s global IP services.
Trademark owners filed a record 3,693 cases under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) with WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center, while WIPO’s two-dozen plus treaties gained 55 new accessions or ratifications in 2019 and preliminary financial results showed an approximate surplus of 97.5 million Swiss francs.
“China’s rapid growth to become the top filer of international patent applications via WIPO underlines a long-term shift in the locus of innovation towards the East, with Asia-based applicants now accounting for more than half of all PCT applications,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. In 1999, WIPO received 276 applications from China. By 2019, that number rose to 58,990 – a 200-fold increase in only twenty years, Mr. Gurry noted.
"Meanwhile, IP is increasingly at the heart of global competition. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that innovation is not a zero-sum game – that a net increase in global innovation means new drugs, communications technologies, solutions for global challenges that benefit everyone, wherever they live. I am pleased that WIPO’s IP services are successfully helping foster innovation and spread it worldwide,” said Mr. Gurry.
In 2019, the top five users of the PCT were: China (58,990 PCT applications), the U.S (57,840), Japan (52,660), Germany (19,353) and the Republic of Korea (19,085). The top 15 origins consist of 12 high-income countries and three middle-income countries, namely China, Turkey (2,058) and India (2,053). Applicants based in Asia accounted for 52.4% of all PCT applications filed in 2019, while Europe (23.2%) and North America (22.8%) accounted for less than a quarter each.
Among the top 15 origins, Turkey (+46.7%), the Republic of Korea (+12.8%), Canada (+12.2%) and China (+10.6%) recorded double-digit annual growth in 2019. The strong growth for Turkey moved it up in the top 15 rank for the first time. Among the top 15 origins, Germany (-2%) and the Netherlands (-3%) are the only two origins to report a decrease in filings.
For the third consecutive year, China-based telecoms giant Huawei Technologies, with 4,411 published PCT applications, was the top corporate filer in 2019. It was followed by:
- Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan (2,661);
- Samsung Electronics of the Republic of Korea (2,334;
- Qualcomm Inc. of the U.S. (2,127); and
- Guang Dong Oppo Mobile Telecommunications of China (1,927).
The top 10 applicant list comprises four companies from China, two from the Republic of Korea, and one each from Germany, Japan, Sweden and the U.S. Of the top 10 applicants, six filed mainly in digital communication, namely, Ericsson, Guang Dong Oppo Mobile Telecommunications, Huawei Technologies, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Qualcomm.
Among educational institutions, the University of California maintained its top rank with 470 published applications in 2019. Tsinghua University (265) ranked second, followed by Shenzhen University (247), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (230) and South China University of Technology (164) (Annex 3) PDF, Annex 3. The top 10-university list comprises five universities from the U.S., four from China and one from the Republic of Korea.
Among fields of technology, computer technology (8.7% of total) accounted for the largest share of published PCT applications, followed by digital communication (7.7%), electrical machinery (7%), medical technology (6.9%) and measurement (4.7%). Among the top 10 technologies, semiconductors (+12%) and computer technology (+11.9%) were the fields with the highest rates of growth in 2019.
International trademark system (Madrid System)
L’Oréal of France with 189 applications headed the list of top filers, followed by Novartis AG of Switzerland (135), Huawei Technologies of China (131), Nirsan Connect Private Limited of India (124) and Rigo Trading of Luxembourg (103). Nirsan Connect filed 82 more applications in 2019 than in 2018, elevating it from 22nd position to the fourth spot. For the first time, applicants from China and India are among the top five applicants.
The most-specified class in international applications – computers and electronics – accounted for 10.1% of the total, followed by services for business (8.3%) and technological services (6.7%). Among the top 10 classes, pharmaceuticals and other preparations for medical purposes (+12.4%), and services in the area of education, training, entertainment, sporting and cultural activities (+9.6%) saw the fastest growth.
International design system (Hague System)
Germany, with 4,487 designs, continued to be the largest user of the international design system. The Republic of Korea (2,736 designs) surpassed Switzerland (2,178) to become the second largest users of the Hague System in 2019. Italy and the Netherlands ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, with 1,994 and 1,376 designs. Among the top five origins, the Republic of Korea (+77.1%) and Italy (+58.1%) saw the fastest growth, while Switzerland (- 11.2%) saw a sharp drop in 2019.
Top Hague filers
Samsung Electronics of the Republic of Korea with 929 designs in published registrations headed the list of top filers, followed by Fonkel Meubelmarketing of the Netherlands (859), LG Electronics of the Republic of Korea (598), Volkswagen of Germany (536) and Procter & Gamble of the U.S. (410). The top 10 applicants list is comprised of two applicants each from Italy, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea and the U.S., and one each from France and Germany.
Designs related to recording and communication equipment (13.6%) accounted for the largest share of total designs in 2019 followed by furnishing (10.1%); means of transport (9.4%); packages and containers (6.4%); and lighting apparatus (6.2%). Among the top 10 classes, recording and communication equipment (+46.4%) and clothing (+35.1) saw the fastest growth.