IAM benchmarking survey 2020

The IP community expects the United Kingdom to remain a major venue for litigation, despite Brexit, according to IAM’s 2020 benchmarking survey. The EPO continues to be the star performer among the big five, while the initial surge of optimism for the USPTO following Andrei Iancu’s appointment may be ebbing

The results of this year’s annual IP benchmarking survey suggest that Brexit will not significantly affect European IP strategies nor diminish the United Kingdom’s status as a patent litigation jurisdiction – although in-house professionals appear to be more confident about the country’s future than those at law and attorney firms. The survey also suggests that the desire to see the creation of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) – preferably including the United Kingdom – is as strong as ever, although it is unclear whether the support of IP professionals will be enough to resurrect the project following the significant setback of the German Constitutional Court’s March decision.

The EPO continues to stand head and shoulders above its peers in terms of service level and the quality of its patents. Meanwhile perceptions of improved USPTO performance following the first year of Andrei Iancu’s tenure as director general appear to be waning: a lower proportion of respondents regard the office’s patent quality as excellent or very good, and fewer survey takers say that its patents have improved year on year. Support for Iancu’s reforms has also diminished, while the Japan Patent Office (JPO) continues to rival the USPTO for second position in approval ratings among the IP community. The Chinese patent office continues to lag behind for now, with only 10% of in-house professionals considering its patents excellent or very good. However, the CNIPA may be closing the distance somewhat; more respondents believe that it is improving than for any other IP office.

In additional interviews conducted to gauge the impact of covid-19, patent professionals report that working from home has posed some inconveniences but has not fundamentally impeded their work. Responses to changes made by the courts and patent offices were also broadly positive, although most practitioners believe that there are disadvantages to conducting hearings by video or telephone; in Europe, practitioners are warning against such hearings becoming the “new normal”.

While several professionals told IAM that they expect to see patent filings and budgets take a hit in the coming year, few believe that covid-19 will have long-term negative ramifications for intellectual property as an asset class. While the threat of increased compulsory licensing was highlighted, so were the efforts of innovators to ensure that there are no IP-related impediments to tackling the pandemic.


In February and March this year, IAM received responses from its readership on a range of questions about perceptions regarding the IP marketplace, patent prosecution and litigation in various jurisdictions, and related legislative and political trends – including the implications of Brexit, the future of the UPC and US patent reform.

In order to compare and contrast the difference of opinion within the IP profession, we designed two separate questionnaires: one for those working at IP-owning companies and another for professionals at law and attorney firms.

The survey got underway before the covid-19 pandemic had brought the world to a complete standstill, so did not include coronavirus-related questions. However, in order to gauge how the IP community has been affected by the pandemic, how it views the responses of the courts and patent offices and what it thinks the long-term implications of the shutdown will be, we conducted interviews with more than a dozen senior IP professionals from Europe, the United States and East Asia.

Of the several hundred responses we received to our survey proper, 46% came from those in IP-owning companies and 54% from those at law and attorney firms. Respondents from Europe were the largest contingent for both groups, comprising 58% of private practice respondents and 45% of corporate professionals. Of those from law and attorney firms, 20% were from Asia, with a further 12% and 10% living in North America and the rest of the world. North American practitioners constitute a larger share of our survey takers at IP-owning companies (35%), while professionals from Asia (16%) and the rest of the world (9%) made up the remainder.

IAM presents the significant 2020 findings in the following categories:

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