Samsung tops EPO rankings


Samsung filed the highest number of patents at the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2012, in what was a record year for filings at the organisation.

The South Korean company filed 2,289 patents out of a total of 257,744, becoming the first Asian company to top the EPO rankings.

EPO president Benoît Battistelli said the 2012 figures, which represent a 5.2 percent increase from 2011, show that Europe is seen as an innovation stronghold by companies that generate and export technology.

Around 37 percent of the filings came from the 38 EPO member states, while the US (24.6 percent) and Japan (20.1 percent) were the biggest filers. Germany, which came third overall, was the leading EPO country, taking 13.3 percent of the market.

After Samsung, the top five companies included Siemens, BASF, General Electric and LG. Europe and Asia each accounted for four companies in the top ten, with two US companies taking the remaining spots. A Chinese company – ZTE – broke into the top ten for the first time, advancing from 43rd to 10th position

European companies led the way in eight of the ten most active technology fields, and were particularly dominant in transport, where more than 60 percent of all applications came from EPO states.

The increase in European patent applications is encouraging news for business in Europe, said Bob Naismith, partner at Marks & Clerk LLP.  “After a post 2008 dip, when research and development budgets were scaled back and fewer inventions were being protected, we are seeing a steady increase in patent filings, which have now surpassed pre-crisis levels.”

Even in tough economic times, companies still file patents so that they can “hit the ground running” when things turn around, said Avi Freeman, partner at law firm Beck Greener. “Companies are pushing suppliers harder to negotiate on fees when their budgets are being squeezed.”

He said it is interesting to see that concerns about the Unitary Patent stopping people filing European patents don’t appear to have materialised. “But the UP has only just been signed and these figures are slightly historical – so who knows how the numbers will come out next time,” he said.

Analysing Samsung’s top position, he said big companies have always viewed patents and IP commercially, ensuring they have large portfolios.

“Now, as much as ever, they filepatent applications for incremental developments, which shows that patents are being used more strategically, for litigation and cross-licensing. I would speculate that with Samsung, its litigation is driving lots of its filings.”

Samsung’s increasing number of filings is part of a wider trend of Asian countries accounting for rising amounts of European patents. Hosea Haag, a lawyer at German law firm Ampersand, said the influence of Asian companies, particularly those from China, is increasingly strong.

“There is an increasing awareness of IP, an increasing willingness to file patents in Europe, together with an increasing willingness to litigate in Europe. The quality of the patent applications is not the same as you would expect from European companies, in terms of the inventive steps or disclosure. But the quality will improve.”

Last year, a report revealed that the Chinese patent office handled the most patent applications – 526,412 – in the world in 2011. The development means that for the first time in 100 years a country other than the US, Germany or Japan received the most applications.

samsung, epo, Benoît Battistelli, marks & clerk, ampersand, beck greener

More on this story

EPO reports patent growth in 2013