The Patent Index 2019 of the European Patent Office provides detailed information on the evolution of the number of European patent applications over recent years, the most active companies and organisations in this field, the technological fields in which applicants develop and protect their inventions (this year with a more detailed analysis of digital technologies), as well as their geographical origin.
The report highlights the increase in applications in 2019 compared to 2018 (over 181 000 applications were received, 4% more than in 2018) mainly thanks to the activity of Chinese, American and South Korean companies.
In terms of top applicants, Huawei tops the table with 3 524 applications, ahead of Korean companies such as Samsung and LG. The first European applicant, Siemens, ranks fifth with 2 619 (a figure clearly higher than the 1 887 patents filed by Spanish applicants).
In terms of the most interesting technology fields, the boom in digital communication (overtaking medical technology) stands out, due to the large investments and advances in the field of 5G and Artificial Intelligence.
Regarding the geographic origin of applications, nearly half of all European patent applications came from European countries. Germany, accounting for some 15%, ranks second in the classification after the United States. They are followed by companies from Japan, China and South Korea.
The report highlights the fact that almost 30% of the applications were filed by an SME, a research centre or an inventor.
As far as Spain is concerned, a new record of European applications has been set with 1 887 patents applied for in 2019 (with an increase of 6% over the previous year), jumping to 15th place in the ranking of applicant countries, highlighting the role of patents as an internationalisation and commercial tool. However, it should be pointed out that Spain is placed 25th in the ranking when the number of applications is measured in relation to the number of inhabitants in the country. This shows that there is still a long way to go before it reaches the level of neighbouring countries of a similar size, such as Italy, with 4 456 applications, or France, with 10 163.
The top applicants of European patents in Spain were the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Tecnalia Research & Innovation Foundation, followed by Telefónica. This fact highlights the lack of strong interest and investment by the Spanish private sector in a knowledge based economy and in the generation of high value-added products and services.
In terms of sectors, pharmaceutical industry, transport and medical technology were the ones that filed the most applications for patents of Spanish origin.
With regard to Autonomous Communities, the first place in the ranking was occupied by Catalonia, followed by Madrid and the Basque Country.