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UK patent applications in Europe rise again

UK patent applications in Europe rise again

"Further investment in R&D is needed to place the UK at the forefront of the current technological revolution, which is bringing sweeping cross-industry changes."
Karl Barnfather

The volume of patent applications filed by UK businesses in Europe has risen again – further evidence of sustained investment in innovation activity. 

The Annual Report statistics released by the European Patent Office (EPO) show that patent applications originating in the UK rose by 7.8 percent to 5,736 in 2018; building on growth of 2.4 percent in 2017.  The UK has also retained its 3 percent share of total European patent applications. 

In fact, the increase in the volume of patent applications originating in the UK is above average compared to the overall increase in filings at the EPO, which rose by 4.6 percent to 174,317 in 2018. Of these, the largest number of applications originated in the US, Germany and Japan. The UK came 9th in the overall list of top-filing nations.  

Rolls-Royce was the top UK filer; filing 352 patent applications at the EPO in 2018. Consumer goods company, Unilever, was in second place, filing 289 patent applications. Other top UK filers included BT (166 patent applications), BAE Systems (162 patent applications) and GlaxoSmithKline (153 patent applications). The top-filing UK sectors were medical technology, computer technology and organic fine chemistry.  

Karl Barnfather, chairman of European intellectual property firm, Withers & Rogers, said: 

“This is a strong step up for the UK and indicates that businesses are continuing to focus on innovation activity, despite the challenging trading conditions. Whilst the headline figures are positive, there is still room for improvement however. Businesses in Germany are filing four times as many patent applications in Europe as businesses in the UK and France businesses in France are filing double. 

“Underlying the EPO’s latest statistics, there is a significant disparity in UK investment in R&D, compared to other nations. In the UK, investment in R&D equates to 1.7% of GDP  - significantly lower than in Germany, where it is 2.9% of GDP, the US where it is 2.7% of GDP and France where it is 2.2% of GDP. The UK Government’s commitment to raise R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 is an attempt to close the gap, but the UK is playing catch up. 

“Further investment in R&D is needed to place the UK at the forefront of the current technological revolution, which is bringing sweeping cross-industry changes.” 

For reference: 

The EPO’s Annual Report: https://www.epo.org/about-us/annual-reports-statistics/annual-report/2018.html