European Patent Office

Thanks to the covid-19 pandemic, the European Patent Office – like every other organisation on the planet – has had to adapt its working practices over the past 12 months. Although in-person hearings have faced unprecedented levels of postponement, dramatic increases in online filings and virtual hearings tell a more positive story. Despite the global challenges, patent filings dropped by just 0.7%, with 180,250 applications filed in total. From a geographical perspective, China, France, Korea and Italy are among those countries which ramped up their output; while the number of applications filed from the United States, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom fell by varying degrees. When it comes to technologies, meanwhile, applications increased by 2.6% in the medical technology field, 6.3% in the biotechnology field and an astonishing 10.2% in the pharmaceutical field; while filings in the areas of transport and measurement dropped by about 5% apiece. Samsung is the most prolific EPO filer, having filed 3,276 patents in 2020; Huawei and LG followed hot on its heels, with 3,113 and 2,909 respectively. Qualcomm came a distant fourth, submitting 1,711 applications. BASF – the 10th highest filer – is the only life sciences entity to make the top 10. While innovation is unlikely to slow down – and indeed, has been forced to accelerate in some areas thanks to covid-19 – the events of 2020 are unlikely to be fully reflected in the EPO statistics for last year. As the pandemic continues, the 2021 stats should be a better barometer for measuring its effects.