Patents granted to Dutch companies by the European Patent Office (EPO) grew by 39.8% in 2016 over the previous year to 2 784, a new record number and the strongest growth in 10 years (Fig.: Growth of Dutch patents granted at the EPO). In terms of numbers of patent applications filed with the EPO (i.e. dossiers which are submitted by an inventor or business to be examined by the EPO for compliance with the legal criteria) the Netherlands was no. 4 in Europe and No. 7 worldwide last year, despite a drop in Dutch patent applications of 3.6% compared to 2015. The decrease is mainly due to a sharp drop of 58% of Dutch patent applications in biotechnology.
Philips again No. 1 in company ranking
Philips was again No. 1 in the list of companies with the most patent applications filed with the EPO in 2016, having moved into the top spot in 2015. Huawei was the new No. 2 (moving up from 11th in just three years), followed by Samsung, LG and United Technologies. The top 10 was made up of four companies from Europe, three from the US, two from Korea and one from China (Fig.: Top 10 applicants in 2016).
Per capita ranking: the Netherlands No. 2
Europe’s potential in terms of innovation and technology is also highlighted by the number of European patent applications filed relative to a country’s population. Switzerland again topped the ranking in 2016, with 892 applications per million inhabitants. Second place went to the Netherlands (405), with Sweden in third place (360), followed by Denmark (334) and Finland (331) (Fig.: Applications per mio. inhabitants).
Overall, the European Patent Office received nearly 160 000 European patent applications in 2016, on a par with the record number filed the year before (Fig.: Growth of European patent applications). There was strong growth again in applications from China (+24.8%) and from Korea (+6.5%), a decrease in applications from the US (-5.9%) and Japan (-1.9%), whilst the volume of applications originating from the 38 EPO member states remained almost stable last year (-0.2%). The top ten countries of origin were the US, Germany, Japan, France, Switzerland, China, the Netherlands, South Korea, the UK, and Italy (Fig.: Origin of applications).
“The 2016 results confirm Europe’s attractiveness as a leading global marketplace for innovation,” said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. “In a rapidly changing political and economic landscape, companies from around the world have kept up their demand for patent protection in Europe. While we see impressive growth in applications from Asia, European companies maintain their role as drivers of innovation and economic growth in their home market, and are proving their resilience in the face of unsettled economic conditions.”
Philips, Airbus and NXP were the top Dutch patent applicants
With 2 568 (+6.9%), Philips was by far the Netherland’s most active patent applicant at the EPO, followed by Airbus (679, +1.8%), NXP (408, +65.2%) (Fig. Top applicants at the EPO in 2016 from the Netherlands). Within the most important technology fields, applications from the Netherlands grew strongest in Computer Technology (+14%), and Medical Technology (+11.4%). The main technologies with the most patent applications overall from the Netherlands were Medical Technology (13%, up from 11% in the previous year), Electrical machinery, apparatus, energy (9%), and Computer Technology (7%). The share of Biotechnology dropped from 9% to 4%.
North Brabant Province with most patent applications
The Province of North Brabant leads the regional ranking with a 51.2% share (up from 47.1% in the previous year) of all Dutch patent applications, and was the fifth largest European region for patent applications at the EPO (Fig.: Leading European regions in 2016). It was followed by South Holland (15.3% share, down from 16.3%) and Limburg (10.2%, down from 15.8%). The biggest growth in European patent applications was recorded in Zeeland (+62.5%), albeit from a low level, and Overijssel (+14.8%). In the city ranking, Eindhoven leads by far with 2 850 patent applications or a 41.4% share (and +5.2% growth over the previous year), ahead of Amsterdam (424 patent applications, growing by 2.4%), and Rotterdam (260, +15% growth).
Varied activity across Europe
Among European countries there were marked differences in patenting activity at the EPO in 2016. Among the larger European economies with higher application volumes, Belgium led the board, posting a growth of 7% over 2015. Other countries including Austria (+2.6%), Spain (+2.6%), Switzerland (+2.5%), the UK (+1.8%) and Germany (+1.1%) also showed increases, while patent applications from France (-2.5%) dropped. The EPO received also fewer patent applications from some of the Nordic states, namely Finland (-8.8%), Sweden (-7.4%), and Denmark (-2.8%) (Fig.: Top 50 countries for applications).
Most patents filed in medical technology
Globally, medical technology remains the field with the highest number of patent applications (despite a slight drop of -2.1% in 2016), again followed by Digital communication and Computer technology (Fig.: Technical fields with most applications). The strongest growth (of the top ten fields) was in Electrical machinery/apparatus/energy (+5.1%), followed by Transport (+3.6%) and Computer technology (+2.9%).
For detailed statistics, and a report on activities in 2016, see the EPO’s annual report at: www.epo.org/annual-report2016