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Global Patent Trends Report: Asia Leading the World in Patent Publication


MaxVal recently released its annual report on global patent publication trends, which revealed several interesting currents. The resulting data, which spans the past five years, helps unravel the complex tapestry of innovation, technological shifts and the driving forces shaping the intellectual property landscape. Given the amount of patent activity discovered in this report, corporate patent counsel stand to be busier and more challenged than ever.

Overall Trends

As shown above, patent publications for 2023 (top left) and the patent publications trend between 2019 and 2023 (top right) showed a marked increase in pending applications and granted patents. This signals that innovation is on the rise, and so is protection of those inventions by patent filings.

Three out of five of the top five jurisdictions for patent publications were from Asia, with those five being China, the United States, Japan, Korea and the European Patent Office (EPO). This dominant finding provides clear evidence that Asia has established a pronounced focus on patent filings.

Leading Markets

When it comes to IP leadership, bright spots can be found all around the globe. China, the United States, Japan, Korea and Germany rank at the forefront of originating countries, with India, France and Italy rounding out the top 10. China, the United States, Japan, Europe and Korea are preferred destinations for patents, due to their significant positions as major consumers of emerging technologies on a global scale.

Patent publications originating from Japan and China continue to dominate among foreign filers in the United States, closely followed by Europe. During the past five years, Korea has demonstrated remarkable and steady growth in patent applications, experiencing a notable increase in 2022. This sustained growth is primarily fueled by patent filings from leading companies such as Samsung, LG, Hyundai, KIA Motors and others.

Not to be counted out, Europe experienced a substantial increase (14.8%) in filings, mainly due to increased filings from big corporations such as Huawei Tech Co. Ltd., LG, Samsung and Qualcomm.

As for the U.S., the report revealed a slight decline (0.9%) in patent publications for 2023. This downtick might be attributed to a range of factors, including economic conditions or shifts in industry focus. Time will tell as to whether the decline will continue or the U.S. rebound in 2024.

Leading Players

In 2023, most of the top five patent assignees were based in Asia, with Samsung leading the pack in published applications, followed by Huawei, LG and Haier. Notably, Chinese firms like Huawei Tech and Tencent are flexing muscle, with strong involvement in patent activities in electronics and telecommunications sectors.

U.S.-based companies, including Qualcomm, IBM and Apple also were featured in the Top 30 list. IBM, however, declined in patent publications compared to 2022, perhaps due to a focus on quality, rather than quantity, of patents.

MaxVal’s research shows the U.S. and China are pivotal markets for top patent owners, with 85% of filings from these players concentrated in the IP5 countries, followed by India, Germany, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Brazil and Vietnam. Filing patents in IP5 countries allows companies from these nations to expand market reach, protect their intellectual property rights and compete more effectively on a global scale. Given the technology advancements and innovation happening in countries such as India, Taiwan and Germany, it makes strategic sense for U.S. and Chinese companies to seek patent protection in these regions. Top filers go through PCT and EP filings for a streamlined process for obtaining patent protection in multiple countries.

Tech on Top

Internet/software/IT services, consumer electronics, chemicals, biotechnology and networking and telecommunication are the top five patent-intensive sectors, based on the number of patent applications.

Patent applications related to internet/software/IT services, consumer electronics and networking and
telecommunication applications abound in the United States and China (> twofold).

Only 9.3% of Chinese patent applications claim priority to other countries. Nonresident applications originate primarily from the U.S. (3%) followed by Japan, Korea, Europe and others. A mere 0.16% of Chinese patent applications are through the PCT route, indicating that Chinese patent owners are more focused on domestic filings.

Increasing Patent Sectors

The internet, software and IT services sector increased 21% in worldwide patent filings over the last p years, with recent filings focusing on energy-efficient computing, cloud computing, cybersecurity, blockchain and computer systems based on specific computational models using neural network models and machine learning. The U.S. maintained its top spot in terms of patent filings, followed by China and Europe. Emerging economies, such as India and Brazil, showed increasing patent activity, perhaps a harbinger of a potential future shift in the innovation landscape.

Biotechnology-related inventions increased by 14% in the past 5 years, showing a gradual rise in patent applications over the last three years.

Networking and telecommunication inventions have increased by 13% worldwide over the last five years, emphasizing cybersecurity, cloud computing, wireless resource allocation and space-based or airborne stations in recent filings. The rapid expansion and evolution of communication technologies is driven by the demand for increased connectivity, faster data transmission and the proliferation of internet-enabled devices and services.

The pharmaceutical sector has witnessed an 11% increase in worldwide patent filings over the past five years. The overall trend is upward, indicating growth from 2019 to 2022. Despite the crucial role of pharmaceuticals in the pandemic, the sector saw a modest decrease in patent filings in 2023 compared to 2022.

Semiconductor inventions have seen an 11% increase globally over the past five years, with recent filings concentrating on flat panel displays, memory technologies, power management and efficiency, as well as integrating AI and machine learning into chip design. It is worth noting that AI/ML algorithms are being used increasingly for tasks such as data processing, pattern recognition, optimization and decision-making in various semiconductor applications, including data centers, autonomous vehicles, smartphones, IoT devices and more.

Over the past five years, there has been a 7.5% increase in innovations concerning consumer electronics, although there was a minor decline from 2022 to 2023. The emphasis has been on intelligent systems like AI or ML integrated into a range of consumer electronics products, as well as applications in health and wellness.

The medical device sector experienced a 6% increase in worldwide patent filings over the last 5 years, albeit with a 10% decrease from 2022 to 2023.

The financial services sector increased by 6% in worldwide patent filings over the past five years, with recent filings concentrating on blockchain-based fund transfers, cybersecurity, regulatory technology, open banking and custom credit solutions. The financial services industry is undergoing significant technological disruption, with the expansion of financial technology (fintech) innovations such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and digital payments. These innovations are driving increased patent activity as financial institutions and fintech startups seek to protect their intellectual property and gain a competitive edge in the rapidly evolving market.

Core automotive-related inventions have seen a 4% increase in the last year and 1% over the past five years, with the electric vehicle (EV) revolution steering patent activity in areas such as battery technology, charging infrastructure, powertrain optimization and vehicle-to-grid integration. The popularity of EVs is driven by environmental concerns, government regulations on promoting green energy and increased demand for EVs.

Agriculture-related inventions have grown slightly by 0.8% over the last five years, despite a dip in patent filings in 2022 and 2023. The recent agriculture-related filings emphasize precision agriculture, gene editing, vertical farming, controlled-environment agriculture, robotics, and innovative fertilizers and pesticides.

Sectors With a Decreasing Patent Trend

Patent filings related to the food and beverage sector have dropped by 39% globally over the past five years, with recent focus on alternative proteins, food processing and packaging, personalized nutrition and digitalization.

Industrial and manufacturing-related inventions have witnessed a 12% decrease globally over the past five years, with Industry 4.0 concepts, including digitalization, automation and AI integration continuing to drive patenting activity.

Personal care and cosmetics inventions have decreased 11% globally over the past five years, with recent filings concentrating on skincare products with natural and organic ingredients, hair dryers, advanced delivery systems, and cosmeceuticals. The decline in filings might be attributed to a standstill or maturation in product innovation in the sector.

L’Oréal and Unilever have the highest number of PCT applications, indicating a broader interest in the global market. In terms of countries, China maintained its top spot in terms of patent filings, followed by the U.S., Japan and South Korea. Emerging economies like India and Brazil showed promising growth, hinting at a potential shift in the future landscape.

Chemical inventions have dropped 9% in the last five years, with recent filings concentrating on green and sustainable chemistry, advanced materials, pharmaceuticals, drug discovery, advanced batteries, energy storage, digitalization and chemical data analytics.

Inventions related to the energy sector have fallen by 8% over the last five years, primarily centering on oil extraction, wind energy and nuclear power. This is likely due to several factors including the global economic slowdown, slowing appetite for fossil fuels, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past five years, patent applications related to aerospace and defense have witnessed a 1% decrease, particularly evident in the declining trends of 2022 and 2023. Despite a dip in 2023, Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to play a pivotal role in driving patent filings within the sector.

Looking Ahead

In 2023, Asia showed its dominance with China emerging prominently for patent publications, contributing to nearly half of them originating both domestically and from foreign filings. South Korea had a 3.5% increase in filings at KIPO.

Looking ahead, the MaxVal report raises major questions for the future. As industries continue to adapt to emerging technologies, understanding the evolving patterns in patent publications becomes imperative. Corporate counsel at innovating companies will have to weigh these factors to determine which patents to publish and when.

Download the entire 2023 MaxVal Patent Publication Trends Report at the link here. Leveraging the expertise of MaxVal’s analytics team, this report is a valuable resource for industry professionals, researchers, and anyone keen on understanding the ever-changing landscape of intellectual property.

Kelly McNulty is VP, IP administrative services, at MaxVal Group Inc., a global provider of intellectual property management solutions.

Reprinted with permission from the March 6, 2024 issue of Corporate Counsel. (C)2024 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.


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