That sinking feeling: why European patent applications are down


Annelise Holme

For the first time in 20 years, in 2009, the number of applications filed under the European Patent Convention (EPC) decreased—by eight percent, from 146,600 in 2008 to 134,500 in 2009.

In contrast, US utility patent applications filed in the same period remained the same as in 2007 and 2008. About 456,000 applications were filed in the US in 2009—3.4 times more than were filed at the European Patent Office (EPO). This is interesting considering that an EP application is valid in 40 countries with a combined population of almost twice that of the US.

So, why are so few patent applications filed before the EPO compared to the US Patent and Trademark Office?

It is often thought that US applicants are only interested in protecting their inventions in their domestic market: US applicants filed about 231,500 US applications in 2008, but only about 33,000 EP applications. However, US applicants still file more applications before the EPO than Japanese, Canadian or Chinese applicants.

EPC, patent applications