Despite low growth levels in the global economy in general, and in Europe in particular, the number of patent applications received by the European Patent Office directed to Electronics innovations showed year on year growth last year. The number of Electronics applications that the European Patent Office allowed to grant also increased in the same period. So states Greg Ward, Senior Associate at European intellectual property firm Haseltine Lake LLP.
European patent applications are divided into technological fields. Of the top ten technological fields (by number of applications), six showed a year on year reduction in the total number of applications relative to the previous year, perhaps demonstrating that turbulent European economic conditions had a suppressive effect on the number of applications filed in some technological fields. However, of the four technological fields from among the top ten that demonstrated growth, three were related to electronic technology, bucking the trend for a reduction in filings and demonstrating the relative strength and research power of companies operating in this area.
The largest growth in filings among the top ten was in the technological field of “Electrical machinery, apparatus, energy”, in which the number of filings increased by 5.1% relative to 2015. Next came “Transport” (3.6% increase) and “Computer technology” (2.9% increase). The only non-electrical technological field in the top ten to display an increase in filings, “Biotechnology”, increased by 0.3% relative to 2015. The areas of “Computer technology” (10,657 applications filed) and “Electrical machinery, apparatus, energy” (10,293 applications filed) were also third and fourth respectively in terms of the total number of applications filed, behind “Medical technology” (at 12,263 applications filed) and “Digital communication” (with 10,915 applications filed) – both of which showed slight reductions in filings relative to 2015.
The number of granted patents relating to electronic subject matter also demonstrated a dramatic increase in 2016 relative to the patents granted in 2015, with the number relating to electronic subject matter shooting up by 42% to almost 23,000 granted patents. This may suggest that, in addition to a large number of electronic based patent application being filed, the inventions contained in the applications are of a high calibre and are worthy of granted patents.
Companies focussed electronic subject matter led the way in terms of the number of filings. Of the top ten companies ranked by number of filings, seven primarily operate in electronic technological areas. This includes all of the top three companies: Philips, Huawei and Samsung.
From European patent statistics it is clear that, in tough economic times, electronics innovations go from strength to strength. It seems likely that this trend will continue in the coming years, as companies seek to protect key future products from legal and economic uncertainty, particularly in relation to the prospective exit of Great Britain from the European Union.