The EPO’s Patent Index 2022, published last month, shows that seventeen of the top twenty applicants for last year are electronics or engineering oriented.
Against this backdrop, we take a closer look at the EPO’s filing statistics to identify areas of existing or growing importance for stakeholders working in or close to the electronics and computing sector.
HEADLINE EPO STATISTICS EVIDENCE SUSTAINED GLOBAL INNOVATION
Overall, patent applications to the EPO in 2022 grew by 2.5% compared to 2021, an encouraging figure despite continued economic and geopolitical uncertainty.
According to the EPO’s Chief Business Analyst, from a geographic perspective this growth is from companies outside of Europe. In particular:
“The share of applications from companies in the EPO's 39 member states fell below 44% for the first time. This European share is being squeezed by greater growth from companies based in the United States (24.9%), South Korea (5.4%) and China (9.8%).”
Respectively, the top five technical fields for European patent applications in 2022 were digital communication (up 11.2% over 2021), medical technology (up 1%), computer technology (up 1.8%), electrical machinery, apparatus and energy (up 18.2%), and pharmaceuticals (up 1%).
GROWTH OF FILINGS IN TOP TECHNICAL FIELDS LARGELY FOLLOWS RECENT TRENDS
As shown in Figure 1, over the past decade digital communication has competed with medical technology for the field with the highest number of European patent applications, with computer technology not far behind.
The recent upturn in filings in electrical machinery, apparatus and energy is driven in part by an expansion of clean energy technologies and batteries. Filings in audio-visual technology, telecommunications, and semiconductors - related fields to digital and computer technologies - have also seen growth since 2020.
WIRELESS TELECOMS COMPANIES DOMINATE THE TOP APPLICANTS LIST
The top five patent applicants at the EPO in 2022 are wireless telecoms companies or companies having a significant wireless telecoms business: Huawei, followed by LG, Qualcomm, Samsung, and Ericsson.
Out of the top twenty applicants, a further three companies have a significant wireless telecoms presence: Nokia (16th); OPPO Mobile (17th); and ZTE (18th).
Huawei and Qualcomm filed 46% and 73% of their respective total European patent applications in digital communication, indicating that a large proportion of their recent innovations relate to basic electronic circuitry and electronic communication1.
As Table 1 shows, digital communication, as well as computer technology, ranks highly as a technical field specialism for corresponding applicant countries (the UK is included in this table as a point of comparison).
|Rank within the top 15 technology fields for selected countries|
|Digital communication||Computer technology|
The World Intellectual Property Office recently found “Digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and the Internet of Things are booming”2 and identified “an upcoming Digital Age innovation wave”3. As technologies such as the Internet of Things, AI-based applications, voice-based services and 5G mobile networks become more prevalent in society, we expect innovation (and, by extension, patent filings) in digital communication, computing and wireless telecoms and related areas to continue to grow.
The dominance of wireless telecoms companies also indicates the growing importance of SEPs and the desire to use them as a profit stream through a large portfolio of high value SEPs in this technology area.
To find out more about how IP can help you create commercial value from your innovations, feel free to contact any of our electronics and computing team.
- Following the EPO’s definition of digital communication “This field encompasses basic electronic circuitry and electronic communication. The field includes, for example, amplifiers, decoders and telegraphic communication."
- World Intellectual Property Report 2022: The Direction of Innovation
- Global Innovation Index 2022, 15th Edition