Despite difficult economic conditions, international patent filings under the WIPO-administered Patent Cooperation Treaty set a new record in 2011 with 181,900 applications – a growth of 10.7% on 2010 and the fastest growth since 2005.1 China, Japan and the United States of America accounted for 82% of the total growth. Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corporation was the biggest filer of PCT applications in 2011.
“The recovery in international patent filings that we saw in 2010 gained strength in 2011,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “This underlines the important role played by the PCT system in a world where innovation is an increasingly important feature of economic strategy. It also shows that companies have been continuing to innovate in 2011 – reassuring news in times of persistent economic uncertainty.”
Attesting to the rapid growth of the PCT system, 2011 also saw the filing of the two millionth PCT application, by US-based mobile technology company Qualcomm.
Among the top filing countries, PCT applications from China (+33.4%), Japan (+21%), Canada (+8.3%), the Republic of Korea (+8%) and the US (+8%) saw the fastest growth in 2011. European countries witnessed a mixed performance, with Switzerland (+7.3%), France (+5.8%), Germany (+5.7%) and Sweden (+4.6%) experiencing growth, and the Netherlands (-14%), Finland (-2.7%), Spain (-2.7%) and the United Kingdom (-1%) seeing declines. The large middle-income economies of the Russian Federation (+20.8%), Brazil (+17.2%) and India (+11.2%) recorded double-digit filing growth.
The US with 48,596 filings remains the largest user of the PCT system, followed by Japan (38,888), Germany (18,568) and China (16,406). However, the US (-0.7%) and Germany (-0.5%) saw drop in their shares of total filings, while China (+1.5) and Japan (+1.8) each increased their share by more than a percentage point.
ZTE Corporation of China with 2,826 published applications overtook Panasonic Corporation of Japan (2,463) as the top PCT applicant in 2011 (annex 2).2 Huawei Technologies, Co. of China (1,831) ranks third, followed by Sharp Kabushiki Kaisha (1,755) of Japan and Robert Bosch Corporation (1,518) of Germany. Each of the top five applicants saw double-digit growth in published PCT applications. Five Japanese companies – Panasonic, Sharp, Toyota, NEC, and Mitsubishi – feature in the top 15-list.
The University of California, with 277 applications published in 2011, is the largest filer among educational institutions, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (179), the University of Texas System (127), Johns Hopkins University (111) and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (103). US universities account for 30 of the top-50 educational institutions, followed by Japan and the Republic of Korea with 7 institutions each.
PCT filings by fields of technology
Digital communications with 11,574 (or 7.1% of total) published applications remained the field of technology accounting for the largest share of total PCT applications in 2011, followed by electronic machinery (6.9%), medical technology (6.6%) and computer technology (6.4%).
Most technology fields experienced growth in patenting in 2011. Electronic machinery (23.2%) saw the fastest growth, but 11 other fields also experienced double-digits growth (annex 4). Only 4 fields saw a decline in filings, including basic communication processes (-5.9%), organic fine chemistry (-4.1%), and pharmaceuticals (-1.9%).