IAM benchmarking survey 2019

IAM’s 2019 benchmarking survey shows growing optimism about the US patent system. Across the Atlantic, the EPO continues to shine under new leadership, but uncertainties remain regarding the prospects for the UPC and the effects of Brexit

The results from this year’s IAM benchmarking survey, in partnership with Derwent, suggest that both Antonio Campinos and Andrei Iancu have made successful starts to their tenures at the helm of the EPO and the USPTO.            

As in previous years, the EPO occupies the top spot among major patent offices in terms of perception of patent quality and service level – far exceeding the approval ratings of any other office. Although the USPTO continues to lag behind its transatlantic counterpart, an increased proportion of respondents considered its patent quality to be excellent and its service level to be good to excellent than last year, with more participants believing that the USPTO’s patent quality has improved more year-on-year than any other office.

In further good news for Iancu, the reforms that he has undertaken at the USPTO have garnered impressive approval ratings and driven increased optimism about the state of the US patent system. However, there is a significant appetite for further legislative reforms to address concerns about Section 101 – the part of the US statute that determines what constitutes patent eligible subject matter.            

Meanwhile, the survey reveals that confidence that the UPC will be established in the near future has continued to fall in the wake of Brexit and the German constitutional challenge. Few people in the IP community now regard the establishment of the UPC as a likely prospect in the next couple of years – despite the United Kingdom’s ratification of the UPC Agreement shortly after our 2018 benchmarking survey was completed. However, most respondents are confident that the court will be established at some point in the future and feel that it is important for a post-Brexit United Kingdom to be involved in the process.

At the same time, the German and US litigation systems continue to lead the way in terms of thoroughness, value for money and the confidence that the IP community has in them. The approval commanded by the UK system continues to grow, while confidence in China as a litigation venue remains stubbornly low, despite the country’s growth in importance among IP owners and law firms.


In February and March 2019, IAM received responses from its annual benchmarking survey to gauge our readership’s perceptions of the global patent landscape and related legislative, political and business issues, and how these have changed since 2018. Among the subjects covered in this year’s survey were:

  • the state of the IP market;
  • the performance of leading patent offices;
  • the state of litigation ecosystems in different countries;
  • USPTO reforms and prospective Section 101 legislation;
  • the significance of Brexit; and
  • the prospects of a European UPC.

In order to compare and contrast the differences of opinion within the IP community, we designed two separate questionnaires: one for practitioners in IP-owning companies and one for practitioners in law firms.

More than 800 responses came largely from high-ranking IP professionals. North America-based individuals were the largest group (37%) among those at IP-owning companies, with participants from Europe and Asia providing 29% and 25% of the total. Responses from the rest of world made up the remaining 10%. Meanwhile, responses from Europe made up the largest contingent of those from law firms, compared to 23% from North America, 17% from Asia and 21% from the rest of the world.

This article presents the most interesting findings from the 2019 questionnaires, organising these into the following categories:

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