Adding Up the Patent Numbers


Good news: The U.S. produced more global patents in 2011 than the year before. The not so good news: Our overall share decreased, while Japan and China recorded significant increases.

Over 181,900 international patents were filed in 2011, up 10.7 percent from 2010, according to estimated data from the World International Patent Organization (WIPO). China, Japan and the U.S. accounted for 82% of the total growth, the highest since 2005.

Estimated data was collected from the WIPO-administered Patent Cooperation Treat (PCT) system. The PCT system facilitates the process of seeking patent protection across its over 140-member countries by postponing the requirement to file a separate application in each country until after a centralized processing and initial patentability evaluation have taken place.

The U.S., with an estimated 48,596 filings (26.7 percent of all patents filled worldwide in 2011), remained the largest user of the PCT system. The U.S. was followed by Japan (38,888 fillings; 21.4 percent of all patents filled), Germany (18,568 fillings; 10.2 percent of all patents filled) and China (16,406 fillings; 9.0 percent of all patents filled).

However, the U.S. (0.7 percent decrease) saw a drop in its shares of total filings, while China (1.5 percent increase) and Japan (1.8 percent increase) each increased their share by more than a percentage point.

The report also looked at patent fillings in 35 technology sectors. Digital communication technologies (7.1 percent published applications) accounted for the largest share of estimated PCT applications in 2011. It was followed by electronic machinery (6.9%), medical technology (6.6%) and computer technology (6.4%). Electronic machinery (23.2%) saw the fastest growth between 2010 and 2011, and another 11 sectors experienced double-digit growth.

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