Germany is number two in the patent ranking

ILast year, companies applied for a patent at the European Patent Office (EPO) for a total of 188,600 inventions. After a slightly weaker Corona 2020 year, this corresponded to an increase of 4.5 percent, and was a record value. This emerges from the patent index published annually by the authority.

Germany continued to be successful in an international comparison. Local companies submitted almost 26,000 innovations for patents and thus came in second place. The United States is the clear leader with more than 46,500 inventions, followed by Japan with almost 22,000 applications.

The European market is increasingly important for China

However, the countries showed different dynamics: while the number of patents from America increased by a good 5 percent, that of Japanese companies decreased slightly and applications from Germany remained at the level of the previous year. By contrast, China, which ranks fourth among nations with the highest number of applications, filed about a quarter more innovations for a patent last year than the year before. The European market is increasingly important for Chinese companies. According to the office, the number of patent applications from China has more than quadrupled in the past ten years.

This growth dynamic in China goes hand in hand with the fields in which companies there are particularly innovative. Products and technology for digital communication increased last year by 9.4 percent to 15,400 patents and thus led the list of areas with the highest number of applications. “In this sector, China is number 1 and a leader,” explains Yann Ménière, chief economist at the EPA, in an interview with FAZ. It is a very innovative industry that invests heavily in research and development. For example, companies are currently working on the new 6G mobile communications standard. Various corporations develop standards together.

Patents also exist to enable that division of labor among competitors, explains Ménière. The companies are also very strong in technologies such as machine learning or in the field of image processing. “Chinese companies are not just catching up, they are leading,” she says. A look at the companies that have filed the most patents shows the dominance of Asian companies: Huawei came in first with a good 3,500 patent applications, followed by Samsung, LG and Ericsson. Siemens was fifth with 1,720 applications and Bosch was tenth.

In this country, companies are particularly strong in the fields of electrical machines, devices and energy, as well as in transportation and medical technology, says Ménière. So it’s gratifying that a good 12 percent more applications were received from the information technology sector last year. Siemens ranked 7th among the top applicants in the field of technology.

The expert attributes the fact that only around 16,500 patents were approved in Germany last year, and thus almost 18 percent less than the previous year, to standardization. For a time, the office could no longer process the flood of patent applications quickly enough. Measures have been taken and therefore a particularly high number of applications have been processed in previous years. It takes three to five years for a patent to be approved.

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