The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has published statistics for 2017 on the use of the international patent protection system.
The PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) patent system, currently composed of 152 members and managed by WIPO, is the reference system for protecting inventions at the international level. WIPO centralizes the initial phase, simplifying patent application procedures for holders who want to internationalize their inventions. They should only interact with foreign national patent offices in the final stage of examination and grant.
According to the 2018 report, 243,500 PCT patent applications were filed in 2017, an increase of 4.5% over 2016.
In contrast, Spain (-7.2%), the Netherlands (-5.2%) and Italy (-4.5%) recorded the strongest declines in the number of applications.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office received the most PCT applications, a total of 56,158 (the receiving national office refers the application to WIPO) ahead of China, Japan and Germany.
The statistics reflect a growing weight of Asia in the use of the PCT system. This continent accounted for 49.1% of PCT applications in 2017, compared to 24.9% in Europe and 24.2% in North America.
Two Chinese telecommunications companies, Huawei, with 4,024 applications and ZTE, with 2,965, are in first and second place in the ranking of applicants. In Spain, 1,399 PCT patents were applied for.
As for the type of applicants, 84.8% of the applicants in 2017 were companies, followed by individual inventors (8%), universities (5.4%, while in Spain this sector represents 15.1% of the applications) and public research centres (1.9% overall, compared to 5.4% represented by this sector in Spain). These data reflect the lower leadership of the business sector in Spain compared to other countries in the generation of patents.
In relation to the technologies applied for during 2017, computer technologies occupy first place, followed by digital communications and electronic devices.
As for the weight of women in PCT patents, the number of women cited as inventors in patent applications has increased from 22.1% in 2003 to 31.2% in 2017. Despite this increase, the presence of female inventors in the applications is still low, representing 16.4% of the total number of inventors.
The technological field with the most female presence in 2017 was life sciences.
Spain, in this sense, is among the countries with the most gender equality in terms of the presence of women in inventions (35.4%).